Body odor is an unpleasant smell from our bodies that arise when bacteria on the skin breaks down the naturally secreted molecules contained within sweat into acids. Unpleasant body odor is a sure turn off. Scientists have now offered a new approach to inhibit the formation of that pungent body odor.
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 odor smell. The research group assessed the ability of over 150 bacterial isolates from underarm skin samples to produce malodourants. They 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.
Dan Bawdon from University of York in Britain, who was the lead researcher of the study said, "This work has significantly advanced our understanding of the specific biochemical processes involved in body odor production. It was surprising that this particular body odor 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 odor formation using compounds designed to target the specific proteins controlling the release of malodourants."
Traditional deodorants act by non-selectively killing underarm bacteria, and anti-perspirants work by blocking our sweat glands. The researchers said, "This new study can be used to produce compounds that specifically target thioalcohol production, leaving the underarm microbiota intact."
The study was presented at the Society for General Microbiology's Annual Conference in Birmingham.