Image via WikipediaThe Silence of the Lambs) is to be believed. The claim that the sweat of schizophrenics is laced with trans-3-methyl-2 hexenoic acid always intrigued me and it is a pity that it turns out not to be true. This paper declares "there is no relationship between TMHA and schizophrenia". Which seems pretty definitive.
There are other studies which suggest that volatile organic compounds can be used to diagnose the condition. It turns out that some of them do have distinctive odours:Image via Wikipedia
- trichlorofluoromethane - sweet smell
- pentane - petrolish
- dichloromethane - sweet smell
- trichloroethene - sweet smell
- benzene - sweet smell
- 2,2-dimethylbutane - tarry, hospital smell
- tetrachloroethene - sweet smell
But that got me thinking about other odours and what they might reveal if they can be smelled. And it turns out that there are lots of them. Lots of conditions and diseases have very characteristic odours.
For instance, the smell of decomposing apples (again, a sweet smell) is associated with diabetic acidosis and that can strike diabetics if they have low blood sugar. Others too such as typhoid giving rise to a smell of brown bread or liver failure a "fetor hepaticus" (aka breath of the dead) which again is a sweet smell.
There are also research projects to develop electronic noses that can spot the characteristics odours of many diseases - particularly cancer. The thinking is that cancerous cells produce different waste products than normal cells and those can be detected - the key chemicals appear to be ethane, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
Fantastic. My current work in progress revolves around smell and having those to call on will help emphasise the strangeness of the central character. Ooh, not just smell either, when she kisses someone will she get a blast of what they are feeling.