Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 7th 2015 Contents A28
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Sweaty people around the world may one day
sing the praises of scientists at the University of
These researchers in England have made a ground-
breaking genetic discovery about bacteria called
Never heard of Staphylococcus hominis? They are
closer to you right now than you might imagine.
They are some of the bacteria that live in your
underarm microbiome. There are more of these tiny
little guys living under your arm than there are humans
living on this planet.
They make body odor smell less than pleasant by
breaking down naturally secreted molecules that are
in sweat. That s why scientists are chasing the holy
grail of hygiene.
The scientists---Daniel Bawdon and Gavin Thomas
of York, along with Gordon James and Diana Cox of
Unilever, which makes personal care products---pre-
sented their research this week at the Society for
General Microbiology s annual conference in Birm-
ingham, England. What they found literally (but not
"This is the first time the active molecular pathway
for this particular form of body odor has been under-
stood," Bawdon said. "We ve never known any specific
details about how they do this."
They ve identified the genes encoding the proteins
responsible for producing free thioalcohols, an impor-
tant component of what makes people stinky when
they sweat. It s part of the reason unwashed gym
clothes smell worse on a second day. These bacteria
have had a longer time to lunch on sweat and produce
One gene the researchers found was not just in
Staphylococcus hominis, but also in two other Staphy-
lococcus species that produce thioalcohols.
It turns out you only need a tiny number of these
bacteria to create an "extremely smelly amount" of
this odour, often described as having an oniony smell
or the smell of rotten eggs, according to Bawdon.
"Most of the (bacteria) don t produce this and only
a certain limited number of species seem to create
this biochemical reaction," Bawdon explained. "We
really don t fully understand why this happens."
But researchers may now know what path to travel
to stop this chemical process from happening. You
can bet that s why a food and personal care product
company, Unilever, joined the British government to
help fund the program.
Currently deodorants and antiperspirants can either
stop you from sweating temporarily, mask the smell
with other fragrances, or eliminate some of the odor
by nonselectively killing your underarm friends. A
product that could target thioalcohol production could
be more effective.
Most products can only keep you smelling fresh
for about 12 to 24 hours, according to George Preti,
an organic chemist at the Monell Center who made
national news in 1990 for discovering the chemical
that produced the odor.
He said the research behind the new findings is
really solid and does advance this sweaty science,
but stopping body odor is still a long way away.
"Even if they could stop this process from hap-
pening, it would need to meet a rigorous standard
for approval to be used on your skin," Preti said. He
holds more than a dozen patents related to deodorants
and related products.
Until this science has a product application, you ll
have to stick with the products that are currently on
the market, or turn to Botox, which can control sweat.
Or you could always consider an armpit trans-
Not a new armpit---just a transplant of the bacteria
that live there.
The procedure was pioneered by Chris Callewaert,
who calls himself "Dr Armpit" and works as a scientist
at Ghent University in Belgium.
He thinks this new research could help put the
science on the right path. But until we get there, he
has been experimenting with armpit biome transplants.
He discussed it at length in a TEDx talk last year.
Good hygiene helps only so much. Your genes can
also play a big role in how good or bad you smell.
In fact some people, no matter how much they shower,
still smell bad. Callewaert has found these individuals
have a larger amount of "bad" bacteria. (cnn.com)
New research could take
the stink out of body odour
The sweaty smell is
caused by bacteria
living in the armpits.
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
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