A former nurse from Scotland who can smell the “musky odor” of Parkinson’s disease has helped scientists create a new test that can detect the illness early. “Super smeller” Joy Milne says she first noticed the scent on her husband, Les, 12 years before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, but she didn’t realize what the smell was until she went to a Parkinson’s support group and found everyone in the room smelled the same.
Milne told a neurobiologist who studies the disease about her scent revelation and they have since used her ability to sniff it out to design a test that can detect Parkinson’s sooner, before tremors and other symptoms appear. This could mean more patients could be diagnosed earlier and those who could benefit from experimental drugs could get them.
This amazing nose of Milne’s has also identified the scents of other diseases. She says Alzheimer’s smells “vaguely of vanilla,” and that cancer has “a more earthy odor.” And she’s now working with researchers to identify the scent linked with tuberculosis.
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