After a Scottish woman successfully smelled out 12 patients with Parkinson’s disease, researchers from Edingburgh, Manchester, and London are now researching the possibility of diagnosing patients with Parkinson’s disease based on the particular smell they emit – according to an ABC report.
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Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that is characterized by tremor and impaired muscular coordination.
No one ever knew whether patients with the condition emit a particular smell, but Joy Milner of Perth in Scotland, has inspired researchers to establish if this is very true and whether it can be used to diagnose patients.
Milner first perceived that her husband’s, Les, body odor changed – six years before he was ever diagnosed to have Parkinson’s. He died June this year at 65 years of age after being diagnosed with the disease 20 years ago.
"His smell changed and it seemed difficult to describe. It wasn't all of a sudden," Ms Milne told the BBC. "It was very subtle – a musky smell."
According to her, it was after she joined charity organization Parkinson’s UK that she particularly connected the particular odor to the disease in patients.
"When I was in a room with other people with Parkinson's, I realized they also had the smell," she said. She added she’s always able to smell things other people cannot.
But the authorities at the University of Edinburgh were not quite certain with her, so they gave her the shirts of 12 people to smell and determine those who had Parkinson’s. Six of the people had the disease, and six did not.
Milner correctly identified 11 of the 12 as having the disease; and she insisted one of the subjects in the control group also had the disease – when he did not.
"According to him and according to us as well he didn't have Parkinson's," said Edinburgh University researcher Dr. Tilo Kunath. "But eight months later he informed me that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's. So Joy wasn't correct for 11 out of 12, she was actually 12 out of 12 correct at that time."
Now a team of researchers is set out to examine 200 people that either have or does not have the disease across the UK to determine if they emit a particular odor that could give away the disease prior to being detected medically.
There are currently no diagnostic tests for Parkinson’s, but it is hoped researchers will be able to develop a diagnostic tool based on smell for the disease – even long before an individual tests positive to it.
About 80,000 people in Australia are suffering from the condition, and it can leave some people unable to walk, speak, or sleep – and it has no known cure at the present.