Scientists have found out exactly what causes BO

Ellen Manning
<em>Scientists think they have identified exactly what causes body odour (Picture: Getty)</em>
Scientists think they have identified exactly what causes body odour (Picture: Getty)

Scientists might have finally found a way of eliminating body odour, by identifying exactly what causes it.

It’s already known that body odour is caused by bacteria, but scientists at the University of York and University of Oxford have discovered exactly how these bacteria take up odourless compounds and turn them into whiffy chemicals that have become known as BO.

The discovery means people will be able to create deodorants with targeted active ingredients – making them much more effective.

It come after the University of York previously discovered that only a small number of species of Staphylococcus bacteria are responsible for BO.

Now, in a paper published in the journal eLife, the researchers revealed how they have managed to identify and decode the structure of the molecule, known as a ‘transport’ protein, which enables bacteria to recognise and ‘eat’ the odourless compounds secreted in sweat.

<em>Scientists have discovered exactly what causes BO (Picture: University of York & Oxford)</em>
Scientists have discovered exactly what causes BO (Picture: University of York & Oxford)

Co-author of the research, Dr Gavin Thomas from the Department of Biology at the University of York, said: “The skin of our underarms provides a unique niche for bacteria.

“Through the secretions of various glands that open onto the skin or into hair follicles, this environment is nutrient-rich and hosts its own microbial community, the armpit microbiome, of many species of different microbes.”

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“Modern deodorants work by inhibiting or killing many of the bacteria present our underarms in order to prevent BO.

“This study, along with our previous research revealing that only a small number of the bacteria in our armpits are actually responsible for bad smells, could result in the development of more targeted products that aim to inhibit the transport protein and block the production of BO.”

The researchers said the discovery may have important implications for medical science.