Body odor is an issue that has been plaguing humans since the beginning of our species. The phenomenon has even introduced a multi-billion dollar industry of deodorants and perfumes. The root cause of body odor has never been clearly identified, until now. Scientists found that the source of body odor is an enzyme named cysteine-thiol lyase (C-T lyase) present within bacteria like Staphylococcus hominis.
This ancient enzyme within bacteria is actually what causes molecules to become smelly. Dr. Michelle Rudden, a researcher at the University of York and co-author of the study, says in a press release, “This is a key advancement in understanding how body odor works, and will enable the development of targeted inhibitors that stop BO production at source without disrupting the armpit microbiome.”
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports. The research was conducted in collaboration with scientists from personal care products giant Unilever, which may use the findings to develop better deodorant/perfume products. The research also revealed that these enzymes existed long before humans did, prior to the evolution of what we define as a “modern human.” The researchers also suggest that the enzyme causing body odor had a role to play in societal communication among ancient humans.
Unilever co-author Dr Gordon James said, “This research was a real eye-opener. It was fascinating to discover that a key odor-forming enzyme exists in only a select few armpit bacteria – and evolved there tens of millions of years ago.”
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