Antiperspirants for sale in Dublin pharmacy (Simon Roughneen)
Antiperspirants for sale in Dublin pharmacy (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Researchers at the University of York in Britain have found a “unique” enzyme deemed responsible “for the pungent characteristic smell we call body odour or BO.”

The research, published Monday in the journal Scientific Reports, describes a “BO enzyme” that occurs in a handful of bacteria and causes “the characteristic armpit odour” that has in turn spawned a lucrative market in deodorants and antiperspirants.

The research was carried out by the university in partnership with the research and development wing of Unilever, an Anglo-Dutch conglomerate that counts among its brands the antiperspirant Axe, Lifebouy soaps and Lux perfumes.

Michelle Rudden of the University of York’s Department of Biology said the discovery marks “a key advancement in understanding how body odour works,” which in turn “will enable the development of targeted inhibitors.”

The university team previously discovered the bacteria that cause BO and believe that the enzymes were present in hominids before the appearance of Homo sapiens and “may have had an important role in societal communication among ancestral primates.”

BO “presumably” confers “an evolutionary advantage” for the human or primate hosts of the enzyme and bacteria, the report contends, as it is produced “for no other apparent physiological reason.”

Follow us on Twitter