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Chem Biodivers. 2004 Jul;1(7):1022-35.

3-Methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol as a major descriptor for the human axilla-sweat odour profile.

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Firmenich SA, Corporate R&D Division, P.O. Box 239, CH-1211 Geneva 8.


This study sets out to redress the lack of knowledge in the area of volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) in axillary sweat malodour. Sterile odourless underarm sweat (500 ml) was collected from 30 male volunteers after excessive sweating. Five strains of bacteria, Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum, Corynebacterium minutissimum, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus haemolyticus, and Bacillus licheniformis, were isolated and characterised for their ability to generate an authentic axillary odour from the sweat material collected. As expected, all of the five bacterial strains produced strong sweat odours. Surprisingly, after extensive olfactive evaluation, the strain of Staphylococcus haemolyticus produced the most sulfury sweat character. This strain was then chosen as the change agent for the 500 ml of odourless underarm sweat collected. After bacterial incubation, the 500-ml sample was further processed for GC-olfactometry (GC-O), GC/MS analysis. GC-O of an extract free of organic acids provided three zones of interest. The first was chicken-sulfury, the second zone was onion-like, and the third zone was sweat, clary sage-like. From the third zone, a new impact molecule, (R)- or (S)-3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol, was isolated and identified by GC/MS, MD-GC, and GC AED (atomic emission detector). (S)-3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol was sniff-evaluated upon elution from a chiral GC column and was described as sweat and onion-like; its opposite enantiomer, (R)-3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol, was described as fruity and grapefruit-like. The (S)-form was found to be the major enantiomer (75%).

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