Melbourne, October 20 : Australian doctors have found out the reason why a 41-year-old woman had to spend four decades puzzled by a pungent body odour "resembling rotting fish" - an incurable genetic condition called trimethylaminuria.
Also known as fish malodour syndrome, this condition affects the smell of sweat, breath, and urine.
"The characteristic body odour resembling rotting fish can be intermittent, variable and influenced by diet, hormones and medications," News.com.qu quoted her doctors as saying in the Medical Journal of Australia.
John Burnett, a professor at the school of medicine and pharmacology at the University of Western Australia, revealed that the unpleasant smell was first observed when the woman was just seven.
The professor said that it was very difficult to diagnose her condition at the time.
"After experiencing ridicule, distress, shame, anxiety and low self esteem during her school years, she first consulted a doctor about the problem at the age of 17, then again two years later, followed by a further four doctors over the next 20 years," Prof. Burnett said.
A microbiologist has eventually diagnosed the woman with a genetic mutation that triggers excess excretion of trimethylamine, a compound found in fish.
"Now having a name for her condition she found an internet-based support foundation and referred herself for genetic counselling," Prof. Burnett said.
He recommended that all doctors better recognize such rare conditions that, though benign, may have severe psychological effects.
"Affected individuals experience shame and embarrassment, fail to maintain relationships, avoid contact with people who comment on their condition and are obsessive about masking the odour with hygiene products and even smoking," he said.