Body odor changes following vaccination

Dr. Kimball, a chemical ecologist with the US Department of Agriculture's National Wildlife Research Center, is stationed at the Monell Center. The National Wildlife Research Center has maintained a field center at Monell for over 40 years. Credit: Monell Center

Our understanding of the role of body odor in conveying personal information continues to grow. New research from the Monell Chemical Senses Center and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that immunization can trigger a distinct change in body odor. This is the first demonstration of a bodily odor change due to immune activation.

The findings will appear in the April 10 issue of Physiology and Behavior. In addition, portions of the work will be presented on April 10 at the 36th Annual Meeting of the Association for Chemoreception Sciences (AChemS) in Bonita Springs, FL.

"This work provides further evidence that it is possible to use odors to 'eavesdrop' on the immune system, suggesting that non-invasive disease detection may be possible even before the onset of observable symptoms," says Bruce Kimball, PhD, a research chemist with the USDA National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) stationed at the Monell Center.

"The results have potential implications regarding disease surveillance in wildlife populations and food safety, bioterrorism, and human disease diagnosis."

In the study, 'biosensor' mice were trained to discriminate between urine odors from mice vaccinated against either the rabies virus (RV) or the West Nile virus (WNV). All training and testing trials were conducted using a Y-maze with odors randomly assigned to each arm of the "Y."

The biosensor mice were also trained to differentiate between urine from mice treated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a bacterial toxin that activates the immune system, and untreated urine.

After completing training sessions, researchers conducted several validation trials using urine from unfamiliar individuals to exclude the possibility that individual odors, rather than treatment odors, were being detected. Following validation trials, several rounds of testing sessions were conducted.

The biosensor mice clearly discriminated RV, WNV, and LPS urine odors from non-treated urine.

Furthermore, biosensors also were able to differentiate between the vaccines and LPS odors. However no discrimination was made between RV and WNV odors.

Together, the findings suggest that the two vaccines alter urine odor in similar ways, while an LPS-triggered immune response produces a qualitatively different body odor.

"This research indicates that there is a pathway between and changes in the body odor compounds, revealing yet another kind of information stored in ," said Monell behavioral biologist Gary Beauchamp, PhD, also an author on the paper. "It is likely that humans also have the potential to communicate the same information, although much more research is needed to demonstrate this."

Based on the hypothesis that immune-activated odors may signal the presence of disease to other members of a species, ongoing studies are exploring how vaccination-induced changes may influence mouse social and reproductive behavior.

More research is also necessary to investigate whether the mouse model employed in this study can be translated to other mammals, including humans, as a means of developing novel methods for detecting and diagnosing diseases.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Avian influenza virus detection using smell

Oct 16, 2013

New research from the Monell Chemical Senses Center and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals how diseases can modify animal odors in subtle ways. In a recent study published in the public access journal PLOS ON ...

Odor ID not disguised by diet

Oct 31, 2008

Reporting in the October 31 issue of the online journal PLoS ONE, scientists from the Monell Center present behavioral and chemical findings to reveal that an individual's underlying odor signature remains detectable even i ...

Earwax: A new frontier of human odor information

Feb 12, 2014

Scientists from the Monell Center have used analytical organic chemistry to identify the presence of odor-producing chemical compounds in human earwax. Further, they found that the amounts of these compounds differ between ...

Recommended for you

Growing a blood vessel in a week

Oct 24, 2014

The technology for creating new tissues from stem cells has taken a giant leap forward. Three tablespoons of blood are all that is needed to grow a brand new blood vessel in just seven days. This is shown ...

Testing time for stem cells

Oct 24, 2014

DefiniGEN is one of the first commercial opportunities to arise from Cambridge's expertise in stem cell research. Here, we look at some of the fundamental research that enables it to supply liver and pancreatic ...

Team finds key signaling pathway in cause of preeclampsia

Oct 23, 2014

A team of researchers led by a Wayne State University School of Medicine associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology has published findings that provide novel insight into the cause of preeclampsia, the leading cause ...

Rapid test to diagnose severe sepsis

Oct 23, 2014

A new test, developed by University of British Columbia researchers, could help physicians predict within an hour if a patient will develop severe sepsis so they can begin treatment immediately.

User comments