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Infectious Diseases

11 August 2020

Scientists sniff out the true cause of 'BO'

Scientists have pinpointed the molecular step inside certain bacteria that make the molecules that cause body odour.

  • Scientists have solved the structure of the 'BO enzyme'
  • Staphylococcus hominis was identified as one of the main microbes causing body odour
  • This will enable targeted inhibitors to stop BO production at the source 


British scientists have discovered what makes people stink.

Blame an enzyme that hides in specific bacteria that colonise the human armpit.

"Solving the structure of this 'BO enzyme' has allowed us to pinpoint the molecular step inside certain bacteria that makes the odour molecules," said co-author Michelle Rudden. She's a postdoctoral research associate in biology at the University of York in the United Kingdom.

Part of natural skin microbiome

"This is a key advancement in understanding how body odour works, and will enable the development of targeted inhibitors that stop BO production at the source without disrupting the armpit microbiome," Rudden added in a university news release.

Your armpit hosts a community of bacteria that's part of your natural skin microbiome. This study highlights Staphylococcus hominis as one of the main microbes causing body odour.

Rudden's team said the BO enzyme was present in S. hominis even before the evolution of modern humans. That suggests body odour may have had an important role in societal communications among humans' ancestral primates, the researchers said.

The report was published recently in the journal Scientific Reports.

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