Bacteria that cause body odor appeared long before the Homo sapiens and may have played an important role in social communication among ancestral primates.
Body odor is caused by the interaction of sweat with some bacteria found on the skin. Previously, the same team found that few microorganisms cause body odor, and in the new research, they focused on identifying which enzymes are responsible for the pungent characteristic smell.
“Solving the structure of this ‘BO enzyme’ has allowed us to pinpoint the molecular step inside certain bacteria that makes the odour molecules,” explained Dr. Michelle Rudden, co-author of the study. “This is a key advancement in understanding how body odour works, and will enable the development of targeted inhibitors that stop BO production at source without disrupting the armpit microbiome.”
According to the researchers, this enzyme was present in the bacterium Staphylococcus hominis long before Homo sapiens appeared.
This suggests that body odor existed before the evolution of modern humans and may have played an important role in social communication among ancestral primates.
“This research was a real eye-opener,” said Dr. Gordon James, co-author of the research. “It was fascinating to discover that a key odour-forming enzyme exists in only a select few armpit bacteria – and evolved there tens of millions of years ago.”