Generation of volatile fatty acids by axillary bacteria

Int J Cosmet Sci. 2004 Jun;26(3):149-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-2494.2004.00214.x.


It is generally accepted that short-chain (C(2)-C(5)) volatile fatty acids (VFAs) are among the causal molecules of axillary malodour. It is also widely acknowledged that malodour generation is attributable to the biotransformation of odourless natural secretions, into volatile odorous products, by axillary bacteria. However, little information is available on the biochemical origins of VFAs on axillary skin. In these studies, assay systems were developed to investigate the generation of VFAs from substrates readily available to the bacteria resident on axillary skin. Propionibacteria and staphylococci were shown to ferment glycerol and lactic acid to the short-chain (C(2)-C(3)) VFAs, acetic and propionic acid. Furthermore, staphylococci are capable of converting branched aliphatic amino acids, such as leucine, to highly odorous short-chain (C(4)-C(5)) methyl-branched VFAs, such as isovaleric acid, which are traditionally associated with the acidic note of axillary malodour. However, in vitro kinetic data indicates that these pathways contribute less to axillary VFA levels, than fatty acid biotransformations by a recently defined sub-group of the Corynebacterium genus, corynebacteria (A). The results of these studies provide new understanding on the biochemical origins of VFA-based axillary malodour which, in turn, should lead to the development of novel deodorant systems.