Questions for “Stinky success: Scientists identify the chemistry of B.O.”

a picture of a woman holding her nose and sniffing her sweaty armpit

Microbes in our armpits use a specific enzyme to turn our sweat into smelly B.O. Scientists have now figured out how that enzyme works.

PORNCHAI SODA/iStock/Getty Images Plus

To accompany “Stinky success: Scientists identify the chemistry of B.O.


Before Reading:

1.  People sweat. So do many other animals. What’s the purpose of sweat?

2.  Sweat can smell stinky. But not always. What makes some sweat stinky?

During Reading:

1.  What are the two types of glands in skin that make sweat? How do they differ?

2.  What is Staphylococcus hominis and what is its claim to fame (or perhaps we should say infamy)?

3.  What is an enzyme?

4.  What is 3M3SH and for what has it become best known?

5.  What is the apocrine secretion that will become 3M3SH? What does S. hominis need to use to turn that starting chemical into 3M3SH?

6.  Why does Michelle Rudden argue that in humans body odor is an “evolutionary hangover?”

After Reading:

1.  B.O. might once have been an important signaling chemical in some species. What might scent-based signals be used for in humans? (Hint: What are pheromones?)

2.  What do you see as the biggest take-home message from the science described in this story?