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Science & Technology

Woman is able to smell Parkinson's disease

By T.K. Randall
September 30, 2016 · Comment icon 10 comments

Parkinson's seemingly produces a unique and detectable scent. Image Credit: CC 2.0 Andrew Mason
Joy Milne from Perth, Australia has developed the unique ability to sniff out the debilitating condition.
Parkinson's disease has become an ever-growing problem over the last few years with an estimated 1 in 500 people suffering from the condition which causes shaking, difficulty walking, slowness and a range of other physical, cognitive and behavioral problems.

No definitive diagnostic process for Parkinson's currently exists, but recently scientists at Edinburgh University were intrigued by a woman who appeared to be able to detect the disease with her nose.

Joy Milne first realized that she had this unique talent after detecting a distinct and unusual scent off her own husband more than six years before he was eventually diagnosed.

"His smell changed and it seemed difficult to describe," she said. "It wasn't all of a sudden. It was very subtle - a musky smell. I got an occasional smell."

It wasn't until she started meeting other sufferers through the Parkinson's UK charity however that she realized that she could pick up the same unusual scent in them as well.
Scientists who tested her abilities were extremely impressed.

"The first time we tested Joy we recruited six people with Parkinson's and six without," said Dr Tilo Kunath. "We had them wear a t-shirt for a day then retrieved the t-shirts, bagged them and coded them. Her job was to tell us who had Parkinson's and who didn't. Her accuracy was 11 out of 12."

Incredibly though, the 12th case offered up an unexpected twist that would surprise everyone.

"She got the six Parkinson's but then she was adamant one of the 'control' subjects had Parkinson's," said Dr Kunath. "But he was in our control group so he didn't have Parkinson's."

"But eight months later he informed me that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's. So Joy wasn't correct for 11 out of 12, she was actually 12 out of 12 correct at that time."

Efforts are now underway to figure out how exactly Joy's amazing sense of smell is able to detect the disease and to turn that in to a reliable way of diagnosing patients.

Source: BBC News | Comments (10)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by third_eye 7 years ago
In the case of canines it is already well established that they can and is now being trained specifically to detect cancer ... dogs detect cancer org link   ~ This lady may be the evidence of the 'spiritual' healers of days past ... I mean way way long ago in ancient past before the Organised Religion type ... normally nowadays disparaged as shamans ... or medicine men/women ... ~
Comment icon #2 Posted by Merc14 7 years ago
That's an interesting take on this and something I wouldn't disagree with.  Imagine that way back when there were no perfumes or deodorants and baths weren't a daily occurrence.  The scent of a disease would be much more evident and someone tuned into it would be able to much more readily diagnose a malady.
Comment icon #3 Posted by third_eye 7 years ago
I agree ... I have on most occasions when I am with the Malaysian aboriginals ( I hate that word ... we refers to them as 'Asli' eg original  / pure ) to have the chance to meet with their medicine men and women ... just a half hour walk around the village and its like a day at a pharmacy ... you need this leave and that root you have this problem and too much of that ... this tree bark and those flowers .. they say ... its an eye opener to say the least ~
Comment icon #4 Posted by Clair 7 years ago
The only thing new here is the identification of Parkinson's odor-print. Many other diseases can already be identified through their particular scent (which can emanate not just through skin but from breath, urine and blood as well). Some smells are really subtle and can only be picked up by a trained professional (and dogs in some cases). But, what I find most interesting about studies in this area, is the fact that our immune systems often react to the smells of others' illnesses and gear up for potential attack. It's like we've got this built in protective mechanism that triggers when we pi... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by seeder 7 years ago
  Ive noticed...and been proved right....that I can smell a woman who is on her period. TRUE!    Perhaps that may horrify some women.... but I do....I notice 'something different' about them. An earthy type me anyway, and thats regardless of how well they bathe or the perfume they wear...its just...'there'. A useless talent... perhaps Im not the only one either....seems there are many like me....heres just one for you to read  
Comment icon #6 Posted by DieChecker 7 years ago
Would it be too much to get this lady to shake Hillary Clinton's hand and lay the CT that she has Parkinson's to bed (or NOT!)?
Comment icon #7 Posted by Farmer77 7 years ago
I had a roommate with that particular gift. It unfortunately didnt come with the gift of a filter on his mouth which made for some incredibly awkward situations.  
Comment icon #8 Posted by seeder 7 years ago
  Its not a 'gift' I share...... Id prefer not to have it.....but.... I have it nonetheless
Comment icon #9 Posted by tararodman 7 years ago
I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 3 year ago at the age of 69. For several months I had noticed tremors in my right hand and the shaking of my right foot when sitting, as the disease progressed i totally lost balance. Neurologist had me walk down the hall and said I didn't swing my right arm. I had never noticed! I was in denial for a while as there is no history in my family. I used amantadine, Carbidopa/levodopa and physical therapy to strenghten muscles all failed. In 2016 a friend suggested Newife Herbal Clinic who have successful heral treatment for Parkinson's disease, i contacted... [More]
Comment icon #10 Posted by Parsec 7 years ago
Well, at least thanks to tara I was able to catch the amusing developments this thread had that I completely missed!     Way to go Seeder!  (By the way, member of the "club" since 19XX as well) 

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