Sniffing Out the Suffering
Some diseases change the patient's body odor. Can the released scents help to detect schizophrenia or Parkinson's disease early?
That goaty smell - keep it in mind. It's the smell of schizophrenia," whispers Hannibal Lecter in the 1988 thriller The Silence of the Lambs. What sounds like the pipe dream of a madman is based on old rumors. As early as the late 19th century, nurses in psychiatric hospitals were rumored to be certain patients emit a peculiar odor Many years later, researchers got to the bottom of the matter and found out that the "scent of schizophrenia" probably actually exists.
The Greek doctor Hippocrates already knew around 400 BC that some diseases are accompanied by a change in body odour. He made diagnoses based on the olfactory impression of urine, sweat and sputum. "If the urine stinks, is too thin or too thick and is black in color, the patient can gradually prepare for his last journey," says one of his writings. Patients' breath served as a further clue to the patient's suffering. Hippocrates was the first to describe the "foetor hepaticus" ("breath of death"), which smells like putrefaction and is still considered a sign of liver failure today…