TMAU & PATM: How the Gut Microbiome Causes Systemic Malodor

Published on  in Vol 3, No 1 (2020): Jan-Dec

Preprints (earlier versions) of this paper are available at, first published .

Cutaneous Bacteria in the Gut Microbiome as Biomarkers of Systemic Malodor and People Are Allergic to Me (PATM) Conditions: Insights From a Virtually Conducted Clinical Trial

Cutaneous Bacteria in the Gut Microbiome as Biomarkers of Systemic Malodor and People Are Allergic to Me (PATM) Conditions: Insights From a Virtually Conducted Clinical Trial

Authors of this article:

Irene S Gabashvili 1 Author Orcid Image

Background:The skin is a dynamic ecosystem of microbes and the source of many chemical compounds that affect human health. Skin-microbiome interactions can cause persistent, psychosocially devastating body smell despite good hygiene. Since odor production is often transient, malodors may not be perceptible during medical examinations. Therefore, having odor complaints can be diagnosed as body dysmorphic disorder and referred for psychological evaluations. Development of simple at-home tests and virtual care programs could improve the diagnosis and management of socially debilitating malodor conditions.

Objective:The aim of this study was to assess potential effectiveness of at-home gut microbiome testing in the diagnosis and management of idiopathic body and breath odor and in people are allergic to me (PATM) syndrome.

Methods:We contacted participants of prior metabolic body odor (MEBO) and PATM studies and online support groups by email or social media. Individuals who consented to participate were mailed test kits for at-home collection of gut microbiome samples. Participants completed an online survey (specially developed for this study) addressing their symptoms and other quality-of-life indicators at baseline and after sampling. Participants collected stool samples after flare-ups or symptom improvements and mailed them to the laboratory to be processed and analyzed. We evaluated between-group differences in symptom severity, as well as symptom improvement observations for the same individuals. For differential abundance testing of microbial taxa, we performed nonparametric statistical analyses using Mann-Whitney U tests for unpaired samples and Wilcoxon signed rank test for paired samples.

Results:A total of 112 individuals from 21 countries consented to participate. About half the participants had been tested for the metabolic disorder trimethylaminuria, and about half of those tested were diagnosed with the disorder. The levels of bacteria previously associated with cutaneous body odor were significantly elevated in gut samples. For the combination of species from AnaerococcusCorynebacteriumCampylobacter, and Propionibacterium genera, the differences were P=.002 for active (73 participants, 182 samples) versus regression or remission groups (30 participants, 51 samples); P=.01 for those experiencing symptoms most or all of the time (46 participants, 88 samples) versus those who had symptoms sometimes, rarely, or never (25 participants, 74 samples); and P<.001 for improvement of symptoms in the same individuals (22 participants, 43 sets of matched samples). Changes in microbial diversity were significant for between- but not within-participant comparisons.

Conclusions:Changes in the gut microbiome composition affect MEBO and PATM severity. In particular, an increase in intestinal bacteria producing odor when in skin flexures was associated with increased intensity of self-reported symptoms. The changes were consistent in the within-group and between-group analyses. Our findings support the feasibility of remote and decentralized clinical studies of malodor conditions. Supplementary sample collection procedures may help to meet established research quality standards.

Trial NCT03582826;

International Registered Report Identifier (IRRID):RR2-10.1101/2020.08.21.20179242

JMIR Dermatol 2020;3(1):e10508


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