U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service




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Gordon, A.R., B.A. Kimball, K. Sorjonen, B. Karshikoff, J. Axelsson, M. Lekander, J.N. Lundström, M.J. Olsson. 2018. Detection of Inflammation via Volatile Cues in Human Urine. Chemical Senses 43(9):711-719. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjy059


U.S. Government work


Contagious disease is a major threat to survival, and the cost of relying on the immune system to defeat pathogens is high; therefore, behavioral avoidance of contagious individuals is arguably an adaptive strategy. Animal findings demonstrate the ability to detect and avoid sick individuals by the aid of olfactory cues, and a recent study indicated that human axillary odor also becomes more aversive as a function of immune activation. By injecting healthy human participants with lipopolysaccharide (0.6 ng/kg body weight) to experimentally induce inflammation, this study demonstrates that natural daily rhythms of urine odor—its perceived dimensions and volatile profile—are altered within hours of inflammation onset. Whereas healthy human urine decreases in averseness over the course of a single day, inflammation interrupts this process and results in an increased urine odor averseness and an altered volatile composition. These results support the notion that subtle and early cues of sickness may be detected and avoided, thereby complementing the immune system in its role of keeping us alive and healthy.

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