Next-Gen Deodorant? Bacteriophages As Bioengineered Odor Blockers

Smelling Armpit Odor

Researchers at Osaka Metropolitan University studied body odor and found that Staphylococcus hominis bacteria are key contributors. They developed a bacteriophage lysin that selectively targets these bacteria, potentially leading to new treatments for body odor.

Bacteriophage therapy could be developed based on study’s results.

Body odor from the armpits comes from bacteria metabolizing sweat produced by the apocrine glands. These bacteria are native to our skin, but the odors produced differ among people. Generally, people use deodorants on their armpits, but perhaps there is a way to get rid of the bacteria.

Research on Armpit Bacteria

To find out, a research team led by Osaka Metropolitan University Professor Satoshi Uematsu and Associate Professor Kosuke Fujimoto at the Graduate School of Medicine collected body fluid samples from the armpits of 20 men that were deemed healthy. In advance, a subjective olfactory panel classified them into two types of odors, with 11 having a more noticeable smell.

The researchers analyzed the matter produced from bacterial metabolism and the DNA of the skin microflora and found an increased presence of odor-causing precursors in those 11 samples along with a proliferation of Staphylococcus hominis bacteria.

Targeted Bacterial Treatment

The team then synthesized a lysin from a bacteriophage, or virus that attacks bacteria, that infects S. hominis. During in vitro experiments, this lysin was found to target only S. hominis, not other bacteria normally present on the skin.

“We performed a large-scale metagenomic analysis of the skin microflora using the SHIROKANE supercomputer at the University of Tokyo and found that S. hominis is important in the development of odor,” said Assistant Professor Miho Uematsu in the Department of Immunology and Genomics. “The identification of the lysin that attacks S. hominis is also the result of the comprehensive genome analysis.”

Potential for New Treatments

Dr. Miki Watanabe, who is part of the Department of Immunology and Genomics and the Department of Dermatology added: “Axillary [armpit] odors are one of the few dermatological disorders in which bacteria are the primary cause. Although many patients suffer from axillary odors, there are few treatment options. We believe that this study will lead to a new therapy.”

The study was published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Reference: “Targeted lysis of Staphylococcus hominis linked to axillary osmidrosis using bacteriophage-derived endolysin” by Miki Watanabe, Miho Uematsu, Kosuke Fujimoto, Takeshi Hara, Mako Yamamoto, Daichi Miyaoka, Chieko Yokota, Yukari Kamei, Akira Sugimoto, Natsuko Kawasaki, Takato Yabuno, Noriaki Sato, Shintaro Sato, Kiyoshi Yamaguchi, Yoichi Furukawa, Daisuke Tsuruta, Fumihiro Okada, Seiya Imoto and Satoshi Uematsu, 18 April 2024, Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
DOI: 10.1016/j.jid.2024.03.039

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