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Supplementary Material for: Olfactory cues of naturally occurring systemic inflammation: A pilot study of seasonal allergy

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posted on 2023-11-15, 18:15 authored by Tognetti A., Saluja S., Lybert N., Lasselin J., Tamm S., Lensmar C., Karshikoff B., Cervenka S., Lekander M., Olsson M.J.
Introduction: In an attempt to avoid contact with infectious individuals, humans likely respond to generalised rather than specific markers of disease. Humans may thus perceive a non-infectious individual as socially less attractive if they look (e.g., have facial discoloration), move (e.g., have a slower walking pace), or sound (e.g., sneeze) sick. This pilot study tested whether humans are averse to the body odour of non-infectious individuals with a low-grade systemic inflammation. Methods: We collected the axillary body odour of individuals with severe seasonal allergy (N = 14) and healthy controls (N = 10) during and outside the allergy season and measured serum levels of two inflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-5). Independent participants (N = 67) then sampled and rated these odours on intensity and pleasantness. Results: While individuals with seasonal allergy had nominally more unpleasant and intense body odours during the allergy season - relative to outside of the allergy season and to healthy controls - these effects were not significant. When examining immune markers, the change in perceived pleasantness of an individual’s body odour (from out- to inside pollen season), was significantly related to the change in their interleukin-5 levels but not to tumor necrosis factor-α. Discussion: Our findings tentatively suggest that the human olfactory system could be sensitive to inflammation as present in a non-communicable condition. Larger replications are required to determine the role of olfaction in the perception of infectious and non-infectious (e.g., chronic diseases) conditions.


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