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The scent of disease: human body odor contains an early chemosensory cue of sickness
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2014 (English)In: Psychological Science, ISSN 0956-7976, E-ISSN 1467-9280, Vol. 25, no 3, 817-823 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Observational studies have suggested that with time, some diseases result in a characteristic odor emanating from different sources on the body of a sick individual. Evolutionarily, however, it would be more advantageous if the innate immune response were detectable by healthy individuals as a first line of defense against infection by various pathogens, to optimize avoidance of contagion. We activated the innate immune system in healthy individuals by injecting them with endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide). Within just a few hours, endotoxin-exposed individuals had a more aversive body odor relative to when they were exposed to a placebo. Moreover, this effect was statistically mediated by the individuals' level of immune activation. This chemosensory detection of the early innate immune response in humans represents the first experimental evidence that disease smells and supports the notion of a "behavioral immune response" that protects healthy individuals from sick ones by altering patterns of interpersonal contact.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 25, no 3, 817-823 p.
Keyword [en]
olfacory perception, human body, health
National Category
Other Medical Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-106169DOI: 10.1177/0956797613515681PubMedID: 24452606Local ID: P-3152OAI: diva2:735218
Available from: 2014-07-24 Created: 2014-07-24 Last updated: 2014-08-13Bibliographically approved

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Lekander, Mats
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Stress Research Institute
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