Trimethylaminuria

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Trimethylaminuria

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Thimethylaminuria is a rare metabolic disorder that causes the defect in a certain enzyme that breaks down trimethylamine, a compound released by protein-digesting bacteria, living in our stomach. Sufferers then begin to release the compound through their sweat, urine and other bodily fluids. The result? A lingering body odor reminiscent of rotten fish, thus earning the disease its more famous nickname ‘fish odor syndrome.’ The bad news? The disease is incurable. The good news? Aside from the odor, the disease has no other visible effect on the body (not counting the psychological effect the disease inflicts upon its victims), and the odor can be controlled by a low-protein diet that limits the intake of choline, an amino acid that can cause the odor to arise (although there has been cases where this didn’t have an effect on the symptom).

Interesting Fact: In the William Shakespeare play ‘The Tempest,’ one of its characters, Caliban, the socially rejected island dweller, exhibited symptoms of fish-odor syndrome, as evidenced by the following lines: “What have we here? A man or a fish? Dead or alive? He smells like a fish; a very ancient and fish-like smell …” which may suggest that the disorder was known at that time. In reality, the first recorded case of trimethylaminuria in medical literature happened in the 1970’s.