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Can People 'Sniff' Out Illness in Others?
Study suggests humans use vision and smell to detect infection more than thought

By Robert Preidt

TUESDAY, May 30, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- People's ability to use smell and vision to detect and avoid others who are sick is better than believed, a new study suggests.

Researchers injected harmless bacteria into volunteers, to trigger classic symptoms of illness such as tiredness, pain and fever. These study participants were photographed and filmed, and odor samples were taken from them.

Another group of people were given brain scans while they were shown the images and exposed to the odor of the "ill" group along with a "control group" of healthy people. These volunteers were then asked to identify which people in the two groups looked sick, which they considered attractive and which they might socialize with.

"Our study shows a significant difference in how people tend to prefer and be more willing to socialize with healthy people than those who are sick and whose immune system we artificially activated," said principal investigator Mats Olsson. He is professor in the department of clinical neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute, in Sweden.

"We can also see that the brain is good at adding weak signals from multiple senses relating to a person's state of health," he added in a Karolinska news release.

The findings provide biological confirmation that survival naturally entails avoiding infection, the study authors said.

"Common sense tells us that there should be a basic behavioral repertoire that assists the immune system. Avoidance, however, does not necessarily apply if you have a close relationship with the person who is ill," Olsson noted.

"For instance, there are few people other than your children who you'd kiss when they have a runny nose. In other words, a disease signal can enhance caring behavior in close relationships. With this study, we demonstrate that the brain is more sensitive to those signals than we once thought," he concluded.

The study was published online recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information

The World Health Organization has more on infectious diseases.

SOURCE: Karolinska Institute, news release, May 24, 2017

Copyright © 2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved. URL:http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=723123

Resources from HONselect: HONselect is the HON's medical search engine. It retrieves scientific articles, images, conferences and web sites on the selected subject.
Brain
Infection
Research Personnel
Smell
Immune System
Fever
Communicable Diseases
The list of medical terms above are retrieved automatically from the article.

Disclaimer: The text presented on this page is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It is for your information only and may not represent your true individual medical situation. Do not hesitate to consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified healthcare professional.
Be advised that HealthDay articles are derived from various sources and may not reflect your own country regulations. The Health On the Net Foundation does not endorse opinions, products, or services that may appear in HealthDay articles.


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