Eurofragance and Sant Joan de Déu Hospital partner to help patients with ‘fish odour syndrome’

By Julia Wray | Published: 14-Dec-2022

Trimethylaminuria is an incurable metabolic condition which results in a characteristic odour

Perfume house Eurofragance has teamed up with Sant Joan de Déu Hospital on a project to neutralise the strong odour of those who suffer from trimethylaminuria. 

The hospital's programme initially focused on paediatric subjects with primary carnitine deficiency, which results in patients not being able to process long-chain fatty acids to convert them into energy.

But it pivoted to include those with trimethylaminuria, an incurable metabolic condition where the body is unable to process certain nitrogen compounds, such as trimethylamine, resulting in a characteristic odour; it is sometimes called ‘fish odour syndrome’.  

As part of the project, Eurofragance created different fragrances available in a cologne, a body lotion and a body serum, that can counteract the unpleasant odour to improve sufferers' quality of life. 

The Spanish fragrance company recreated the smell of patients' skin in an internal model before testing fragrances against the trimethylamine.

“At the nutrition clinic, we saw how these patients and their families were mainly worried about the smell and its consequences, and how families looked for different perfumes and essences without being able to find one that would help them neutralise the unpleasant odour, as smells and scents just mixed, which proved frustrating,” said Beatriz Minguez, a paediatrician who works in the Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition service at Hospital Sant Joan de Déu in Barcelona.  

“After reviewing existing studies, we couldn't find any other option, apart from antibiotics or a low-choline diet, which patients were already on. 

“It was at this juncture that we turned to Eurofragance for help.  

“While the company was unaware of this syndrome, they immediately expressed a willingness to help and began working on finding a solution, which is the one currently in place and delivering positive results.  

“The fragranced products are currently produced jointly by Eurofragance and the hospital's Pharmacy Service, which, after learning about the project, got involved on a voluntary basis.”

"At Eurofragance, we recreated the smell of patients' skin in an internal model in order to start testing several fragrances against the trimethylamine,” said Magdalena Rey, Technical Perfumer at Eurofragance and the project leader. 

“We have tested many raw materials to counteract this disagreeable odour. 

“After selecting an initial batch of fragrances, the patients began introducing them into their personal care routine.  

“Patients were monitored and asked to fill out a survey. 

“So far, the results are satisfactory, although more tests will be needed with more patients to confirm them.”

A challenge was that many of the subjects were paediatric or adolescent patients, so the fragrance also had to be appropriate for their age group.

“For the youngest patients, we were inspired by a fresh eau de cologne concept,” said David Mallo, a Perfumer at Eurofragance. 

“For teenagers, we designed a fresh, unisex green tea blend that is well accepted at any age.”

Products developed using the fragrance included a body cream lotion with 1% fragrance, an eau de toilette with 5% fragrance and a body serum with 2% fragrance.

The latter is said to help maintain the fragrance longer and provides good moisturisation while being easy to apply.

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