Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Sneezing, coughing, and a pasty complexion are all telltale signs that someone is under the weather. But, according to a new research published in Psychological Science, you can detect whether or not someone is sick just by smelling them. Even more, researcher Mats Olsson of Karolinska Institutet in Sweden claims there's scientific evidence that postulates some diseases have distinct aromas. For instance, it's been noted that the breath of people with diabetes can smell like acetone or rotten apples. “There may be early, possibly generic, biomarkers for illness in the form of volatile substances coming from the body,” says Olsson.
To prove this theory, Olsson and his team injected eight healthy people with either lipopolysaccharide (a toxin that elevates the immune response) or a saline solution. After wearing tight T-shirts to absorb their sweat over a four-hour period, the injected group allowed a group of 40 (non-injected) people to sniff out the results. As predicted, the shirts from the LPS group had a more intense and undesirable odor than those worn by the saline participants. While there's still a lot of research to be done as far as what the chemical compounds are that cause this reaction when we're ill, the results do suggest we may be able to have a better handle on containing infectious diseases in the future. Hey, if animals can sniff out their prey, anything is possible. (Psychological Science)