Different Diseases Have Different Smells

Certain ailments give off signature scents, whether it's the baked-bread odor of typhoid or the meaty smell of yellow fever. When it's progressed far enough, melanoma is said to give off the smell of gasoline, whereas trimethylaminuria (a disorder in which the body can't break down the compound trimethylamine) causes the unfortunate symptom of body odor that's reminiscent of rotten fish. Even mental disorders can release a specific smell: schizophrenia's effect on the body's metabolism results in a sweet, fruity odor in the sweat.

How Different Diseases Make You Smell

Sometimes, doctors can make a diagnosis based on scent. How do they do it?

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Different diseases give off different odors. Sometimes doctors can diagnose you based off of how you smell. 00:07

  2. If you have a burn wound infected with the bacteria Pseudomonas, it might smell like grape juice. 00:44

  3. Scientists have created electronic noses that can detect faint traces of compounds that are associated with different diseases. 01:24

The Affect of Stress on Your Sense of Smell

When you're stressed, things smell differently—usually worse.

The Power of Scent

Why do certain smells trigger memories?

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Memories linked to smells are often stronger and more vivid than those linked to sights or sounds. 00:43

  2. Other senses are routed through the thalamus, which sends them to the necessary processing centers. Smells go directly to an area linked to the memory centers of your brain. 01:19

  3. A 2013 study found that smells are more strongly connected to emotional processing centers than verbal cues are. 01:54

Written by Curiosity Staff December 3, 2015

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