Public transportation users are very familiar with, and often suffer from, a phenomenon that reaches its peak in hot weather... As soon as the temperature rises, bodies start sweating, armpits get moist, and they spread the sweet smell of… B.O.! We're often tempted to blame this on a person's lack of hygiene. However, they really aren't to blame. In fact, it has more to do with pernicious bacteria that lodge under their arms...
Their role has been brought forward by scientists for some time now. These bacteria consume the odorless compounds secreted through sweat, and transform them into very fragrant compounds. Recently, researchers at the University of York in northern England have even identified a small number of species from the staphylococcus family as the main cause of the most nauseating compounds emitted by armpits.
Although the culprits were finally uncovered, scientists still had doubts about their "crimino-olfactory" modus operandi... Until new research revealed their secrets. Researchers from York University and Oxford University in the United Kingdom came together for this purpose. In a study published by eLife magazine, the team reveals that it has identified and decoded the structure of the molecule that allows bacteria to recognize and ingest the odorless compounds of sweat: a transport protein.
A protein that is found in many bacteria
In order to analyze it, the researchers started by crystallizing it. It's the best way to observe it in detail and thus describe its molecular structure. "The protein belongs to a family of peptide transporters found in many bacteria," says Professor Simon Newstead, from the Department of Biochemistry at Oxford University.
Thanks to a state-of-the-art instrument - the Synchrotron - researchers were also able to understand the mechanisms behind the protein's function, and develop a plan against it. The main hope this brings: finally developing the ultimate deodorant, which would relieve the millions of victims of their neighbors' pestilence...
"Modern deodorants work by inhibiting or killing many of the bacteria beneath our arms to prevent the development of body odor," says one of the co-authors of the study, Dr. Gavin Thomas from the Department of Biology at York University.
The hope of finally developing an effective solution
"This study, as well as our previous work that reveals that only a small number of bacteria under our armpits are actually responsible for bad odors, could allow the development of more targeted products that aim to inhibit the transport protein and thus block the production of 'body odor," says the researcher. After countless summers of olfactory suffering, it may well be that science will finally help rid subway trains of the sweet smell of B.O..."
Check out the video above to find out more on this study!