Life Style

Smelly underarms? Here’s why!

April 03, 2015 02:51 PM

Identifying specific causal factors for that off-putting underarm smell, a recent research offers a new approach to inhibiting the formation of that pungent body odour which often keeps even your loved ones away.

For many, body odour is an unfortunate side-effect of their daily lives. The smell is caused by bacteria on the skin breaking down naturally secreted molecules contained within sweat.

The researchers studied the underarm microbiome and identified a unique set of enzymes in the bacterium Staphylococcus hominis that is effective at breaking down sweat molecules into compounds known as thioalcohols, an important component of the characteristic body odour smell.


In the work, presented at the Society for General Microbiology’s Annual Conference in Birmingham, the research group assessed the ability of over 150 bacterial isolates from underarm skin samples to produce malodourants.

“This work has significantly advanced our understanding of the specific biochemical processes involved in body odour production,” said lead researcher Dan Bawdon from University of York in Britain.

The researchers also identified the genes encoding the proteins responsible for producing the thioalchohols, which are pungent in tiny amounts — as little as one part per trillion.

“It was surprising that this particular body odour pathway is governed by only a small number of the many bacterial species residing in the underarm. We have opened up the possibility of inhibiting body odour formation using compounds designed to target the specific proteins controlling the release of malodourants,” Bawdon added.

Traditional deodorants and anti-perspirants act by non-selectively killing underarm bacteria or by blocking our sweat glands, respectively.

This new study can be used to produce compounds that specifically target thioalcohol production, leaving the underarm microbiota intact, the researchers said.

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