Sniffing 'infection odour': A cross sectional study of odours from patients with infectious disease

Author(s): Sridhar Amalakanti, Sundarachary Nagarjunakonda


Infectious diseases are associated with many types of odours emanating from the host. But data on ‘infection odour’, i.e. the smell common to most infections has not been studied. We investigated to find any such physician identifiable odour [infection odour] common to the process of infection which might provide a valuable clue to the diagnosis of infectious disease.


Over a one month period in the Tertiary Govt. General Hospital, Guntur, India, the study physician approached 52 hospitalised infected patients and 61 non infected patients to detect the smells emanating from them. During the process of clinical examination the smell emanating was noted by the physician. Data on clinical profile, nature and severity of illness were also collected. Comparison of Smells between patients with infectious disease and noninfectious diseased was performed.


Majority of the participants had no smell. There was no specific odour from infected patients. Among patients with smell, prolonged duration of illness and non-infected people had pleasant odours. Among infected patients, those on antipyretics seem to have more agreeable odours. There was no relation to the type of infection, temperature, respiratory rate, number of medications, or severity of illness with the smells emanating from the patients.


Physician detectable smell is present only in some people. There is no particular ‘infection odour’. A pleasant smell from an infected patient may signify a longer duration of infection.

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