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People allergic to me: rare skin condition PATM causes sufferers to emit toxic odours that can make those around them ill


The researchers in the field of biochemistry found that study participants in the PATM group released considerably more compounds with noxious odours through their skin than those who did not suffer from the condition.

Those who identify themselves as PATM become depressed and avoid communication with others, deepening their social isolation

Dr Yoshika Sekine, professor of chemistry at Tokai University

To be specific, the “toxic” individuals emitted five times more mercaptans – organic components of hydrocarbons with sulphur that resemble rotten cabbage or garlic; 50 times more acetone, an organic compound found in both paint and varnish remover; six times more hexanal, a molecule found in black walnuts and tea, and; 40 times more toluene, a hydrocarbon found in crude oil.

Exposure to toluene, according to the United States’ Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), can cause eye and nose irritation, tiredness, confusion, euphoria, dizziness, headache, dilated pupils, tears, anxiety, muscle fatigue, insomnia, nerve damage, inflammation of the skin, and liver and kidney damage.

In short, the CDC recommends avoiding exposure to toluene.

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As the paper’s authors write, greater emissions of gases were observed in the PATM groups, “with potential offensive odours and/or adverse health effects”. They add: “There are people who are very vulnerable to low doses of chemicals in the environment.”

Dr Yoshika Sekine, a study author and professor of chemistry at Tokai University in Japan, told the Post that certain chemicals in the environment have been known to induce allergy-like reactions in people exposed to them.

When these types of chemicals are generated from interior building materials and/or furniture, the phenomenon is known as sick building syndrome (SBS) or sick house syndrome (SHS), Sekine says.

Additional studies are needed to uncover the root causes of socially debilitating malodour and PATM conditions

Irene Gabashvili, a biomedical scientist

He added that human skin gases in the PATM group may trigger allergy-like reactions in people around them. The mechanism for the release of these trace chemicals to enable them to cause adverse health effects is still not understood, though.

Sekine believes a number of factors could trigger people to develop PATM symptoms, including physical injury, mental illnesses and psychological disorders, as well as the “trauma of being told that his/her body stinks”, and exposure to harmful chemicals.

The study found common features in the human skin gas profiles of the PATM group, including greater emissions of toluene, sulphur compounds which emit a bad smell, and hexanal, which has an unpleasant, hay-like odour.

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He added that these changes in human skin gas profiles will have different impacts on the people around them.

The few scientific papers that have been written on PATM have linked depression, chronic anxiety levels, and even body dysmorphia with the condition.

On Reddit, some have linked PATM to the rare but slightly better known disease trimethylaminuria, otherwise known as “fish odour syndrome”.

This condition causes a pungent, fishy smell in sweat, breath, saliva and urine. Symptoms can be present from birth, or start later in life, usually around the onset of puberty when profound hormonal changes kick in.

The cause of PATM is not yet known, but some believe eating certain foods can increase or decrease its effects. Photo: Shutterstock

According to the UK’s National Health Service, in trimethylaminuria the body is unable to turn a strong-smelling chemical called trimethylamine – produced in the gut when bacteria break down certain foods – into a different chemical that doesn’t smell. This means trimethylamine builds up in the body and gets into bodily fluids.

PATM’s cause has not yet been identified.

Could diet play a role? While certain foods, particularly foods of a more smelly variety, can affect our body odour, Sekine would not speculate.

“Although dietary content is strongly associated with skin gas composition, its relationship with PATM is unknown,” he said.

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Another researcher, Irene Gabashvili, a biomedical scientist based in California, has identified microbial communities associated with PATM. Specifically, she has examined the relationship between what’s in sufferers’ excrement, their diet, and inflammatory/metabolic disease markers.

Individuals with an abundance of skin-odour-causing bacteria in the gut might benefit from reducing their levels of it, her research suggests. But Gabashvili notes that our bodies must retain certain levels of this bacteria “as they prevent some skin, ear and respiratory infections”.

People affected by PATM suffer terribly. According to Sekine, one of the biggest problems “is that those who identify themselves as PATM become depressed and avoid communication with others, deepening their social isolation”.

He added that some people believe themselves to have PATM even though their skin gas composition does not show PATM characteristics.

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While his study delved into the PATM phenomenon, it does not address a cure. Can anything be done to help those suffering?

With little scientific or medical focus on the condition, people with PATM feel isolated, Sekine says, and there is a need to raise awareness and urge scientists to further study the phenomenon to find answers to help those afflicted.

Gabashvili agrees: “Additional studies are needed to uncover the root causes of socially debilitating malodour and PATM conditions and, most importantly, to connect patient experiences to the development of personalised therapies.”

Article was originally published from here

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