No matter how wonderful the human body is, it is impossible to avoid certain bodily functions that makes us uncomfortable. Body odor is one such thing. As mammals with a strong sense of smell, this not-so-pleasant body odor is a given. Scientists were finally able to discover the origins of this mystery smell, as per the new research published on Nature about an enzyme that creates it!
Out of all sorts of bacteria present on the human body, only a few are related to body odor. However, a group of researchers from University of York working in partnership with Unilever scientists, have identified an enzyme linked with bacteria linked to odorous armpits, called “BO enzyme.” This enzyme is referred to as C-T lyase, and it promotes the secretion of thioalcohols from some bacterial strains belonging to the Staphylococcus family.
In a statement, Dr. Michelle Rudden, the co-first author from the Biology department of University of York, explained: “Solving the structure of this ‘BO enzyme’ has allowed us to pinpoint the molecular step inside certain bacteria that makes the odor molecules.”
He went on to suggest that this latest discovery is a major point in the journey of understanding how body odor is created. He also stated that this discovery will contribute to the development of targeted inhibitors that prevent the production of BO at its origin, without disrupting the microbiome that’s established in the armpits.
Though there’re many bacteria associated with diseases, BO-producing bacteria are part of the natural skin microbiome, and pose no threat to the human body. The main cause of body odor is a bacteria called Staphylococcus hominis, a common harmless resident on our bodies.
The research also highlighted the fact that BO enzyme has existed in S. hominis, even before humans did. Though this body odor is unpleasant for the modern nose, back then, the prevalence of strong smells in wild animals were significant for societal communication. Luckily, we are way past that age of underarm-communication, but in ancient times, a bit of BO could express a thousand words.
According to Dr. Gordon James, the co-author of Unilever, this research was truly an eye opener. He also expressed his fascination about the existence of odor-forming enzymes in several armpit-related bacteria, and their evolution that took place millions of year ago.