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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 May;78(9):3317-24. doi: 10.1128/AEM.07816-11. Epub 2012 Feb 24.

Moraxella species are primarily responsible for generating malodor in laundry.

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Safety Science Research Laboratories, Kao Corporation, Tochigi, Japan.


Many people in Japan often detect an unpleasant odor generated from laundry that is hung to dry indoors or when using their already-dried laundry. Such an odor is often described as a "wet-and-dirty-dustcloth-like malodor" or an "acidic or sweaty odor." In this study, we isolated the major microorganisms associated with such a malodor, the major component of which has been identified as 4-methyl-3-hexenoic acid (4M3H). The isolates were identified as Moraxella osloensis by morphological observation and biochemical and phylogenetic tree analyses. M. osloensis has the potential to generate 4M3H in laundry. The bacterium is known to cause opportunistic infections but has never been known to generate a malodor in clothes. We found that M. osloensis exists at a high frequency in various living environments, particularly in laundry in Japan. The bacterium showed a high tolerance to desiccation and UV light irradiation, providing one of the possible reasons why they survive in laundry during and even after drying.

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