Study finds we can smell diseases

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

smell diseases
Can we sniff out our own sickness?

According to a new Swedish study, humans can smell diseases. This is because an infected body has an active immune system which produces a specific smell that’s released into sweat.

In order to show this, researchers used two groups of people. One was injected with harmless salt water while the other was exposed to a bacterial infection. After about 4 hours, scientists collected the participants’ sweaty T-shirts, cut out the armpit area, and then closed the cloth inside of bottles.

From there, 40 university students were asked to whiff the T-shirt fragments. Based on the reports of the smellers, shirts from the bacterially infected volunteers had an “unhealthy” stench when compared to the T-shirts of participants injected with salt. Researchers also found that participants whose immune systems were more active received high ratings of unpleasantness.

This ability to detect sick people may apparently protect healthy people from illness.

Image of self-sniffing student courtesy of Sklathill on Flickr.