Published Nov 14, 2022
Eurofragance and Sant Joan de Déu Hospital collaborate on the development of a solution for fish odor syndrome

  • The goal is to improve the quality of life of patients with this rare disease*.

  • This condition brings with it a great psychological burden, potentially leading to social isolation, anxiety and depression.

  • The perfume house has created different fragrances that can neutralize the unpleasant smell due to this disease and allow patients to lead a normal life.  


Barcelona, 14 November 2022.  Perfume house Eurofragance and Sant Joan de Déu Hospital, both based in the Barcelona area, have signed a partnership agreement to work on a project focused on neutralizing the strong odor associated with those who suffer from primary carnitine deficiency or trimethylaminuria.  The multinational has created different fragrances available in various applications such as a cologne, a body lotion and a body serum, that can counteract the unpleasant odor in an effort to improve the quality of life of people who suffer from this condition.

The project focuses on people suffering from carnitine deficiency1, which results in these patients not being able to process long-chain fatty acids and convert them into energy.  The program also concentrates on people with trimethylaminuria2, a metabolic condition for which there is no cure, in which the body is unable to process certain nitrogen compounds, such as trimethylamine, resulting in a characteristic odor.   At first, the work focused on finding a solution for primary carnitine deficiency, although as more and more people with trimethylaminuria looked to improve their lives, the study shifted to provide a solution to all in need.

The idea behind the project began when the Hospital detected several cases with this problem in pediatric patients and then contacted Eurofragance.   In July 2021, the fragrance company and its Development Department began research on this specific medical condition.   Patients reported voluntarily in person to have the intensity and profile of this odor evaluated by Perfumers within the company.

Beatriz Minguez, a pediatrician who works in the Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition service at Hospital Sant Joan de Déu in Barcelona, explains: "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 neutralize the unpleasant odor, as smells and scents just mixed, which proved frustrating.   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."

For its part, the fragrance company notes: "At Eurofragance, we recreated the smell of patients skin in an internal model in order to start testing several fragrances against the trimethylamine.  We have tested many raw materials to counteract this disagreeable odor," explains Magdalena Rey, a technical Perfumer at Eurofragance and the project leader.   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, results are satisfactory, although more tests will be needed with more patients to confirm them.

Fragrance, the solution to the problem

In order to find a solution to the strong odor produced by the patient, the company has focused on the potential synergy between the fragrance and the cosmetic product containing it, with one clear goal in mind: to neutralize the smell caused by this treatment.

David Mallo, a Perfumer at Eurofragance, explains the process: "Since these are pediatric and/or adolescent patients, the key was to find a fragrance that is appropriate for their age and environment in order to make it more acceptable.   For the youngest patients, we were inspired by a fresh eau de cologne concept.   For teenagers, we designed a fresh, unisex Green Tea blend that is well accepted at any age."

Specifically, they developed a body cream lotion with 1% fragrance, an eau de toilette with 5% fragrance, and a body serum with 2% fragrance.   The latter helps maintain the fragrance longer and provides good moisturization, while being easy to apply.   Each set of products contains the same fragrance to give consistency to the effect of the perfume.   To increase its effectiveness, patients were asked to use neutral shower gels and shampoos, preferably unscented, and to completely eliminate any other cosmetic products that could interfere with the results.

The daily routine of a typical patient consists in applying the serum and lotion after showering, and then reinforcing the neutralizing effect by applying an eau de toilette as needed.   Both the serum and lotion can also be reapplied if necessary.

Eurofragance has methodically tested the ingredients one by one against the unpleasant smell in search of a fragrance that lasts longer on skin to provide a more effective solution.  The lotion is a standard hospital base, while the serum was created specifically for this project using ingredients that are suited to the sensitive skin of children.

Ivan Wong, a Perfumer at Eurofragance, who was involved in this project from the beginning says: “When people think of perfumery, they often think of the glamorous advertising campaigns for fine fragrances, but perfumery is a lot more than that.  When done right, as is the case with this project, perfumes can play a crucial role in improving the quality of our lives.”

A project that can change lives

The collaboration between Sant Joan de Déu Hospital and Eurofragance opens up new opportunities to improve the quality of life of people with chronic diseases such as fish odor syndrome.  This project provides some hope for these patients, for whom body odor poses a major problem in their everyday life at both a social and psychological level, becoming the defining characteristic of their illness.   In their daily lives, they can suffer from social isolation, insecurity and, consequently, psychological problems.

Being able to reduce this unpleasant odor as much as possible would significantly improve their quality of life while research continues on finding a definitive cure.

 

Both entities, Sant Joan de Déu Hospital and Eurofragance, have already tested the newly formulated products on a limited number of patients with satisfactory results, and continue working together to address the needs of those affected this particular disease.

Currently, the project is still in testing phase, and the search continues for volunteers to evaluate the effectiveness of the approach.   Anyone affected by this ailment and interested in participating in this ongoing research, can write to bminguez@hsjdbcn.es.
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