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Human scent as a first-line defense against disease
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics, SUBIC - Stockholm University Brain Imaging Centre. Karolinska Institutet, Sweden; Monell Chemical Senses Center, USA.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3529-8981
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2023 (English)In: Scientific Reports, E-ISSN 2045-2322, Vol. 13, no 1, article id 16709Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Individuals may have a different body odor, when they are sick compared to healthy. In the non-human animal literature, olfactory cues have been shown to predict avoidance of sick individuals. We tested whether the mere experimental activation of the innate immune system in healthy human individuals can make an individuals' body odor be perceived as more aversive (intense, unpleasant, and disgusting). Following an endotoxin injection (lipopolysaccharide; 0.6 ng/kg) that creates a transient systemic inflammation, individuals smelled more unpleasant compared to a placebo group (saline injection). Behavioral and chemical analyses of the body odor samples suggest that the volatile components of samples from sick individuals changed qualitatively rather than quantitatively. Our findings support the hypothesis that odor cues of inflammation in axillary sweat are detectable just a few hours after experimental activation of the innate immune system. As such, they may trigger behavioral avoidance, hence constituting a first line of defense against pathogens of infected conspecifics.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer Nature, 2023. Vol. 13, no 1, article id 16709
Keywords [en]
human scent, first-line defense, disease, olfactory cues
National Category
Neurosciences Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-223785DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-43145-3ISI: 001083919900012PubMedID: 37794120Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85173732154OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-223785DiVA, id: diva2:1812237
Note

This study was supported by grants from the Swedish Research Council (2012-1125, 2016-02742, 2020-02567) and Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation (P12-1017), awarded to MJO).

Available from: 2023-11-15 Created: 2023-11-15 Last updated: 2024-01-11Bibliographically approved

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Lundström, Johan N.Axelsson, JohnLekander, Mats

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