Decaying body odour may help rescue workers: Study

London, Feb 10 (IANS) New research on the odour profile of decomposition during the first 72 hours after death may help rescue workers to decide what kind of rescue dogs to work with in the hopes of improving their chances of finding survivors at disaster sites.

Researchers from the University of Technology-Sydney analysed the change in the odour of decomposition during the first 72 hours after death.

Since pigs are physiologically similar to humans, the authors conducted their research using pig carcasses.

“Our motivation for this study came from information local law enforcement agencies gave us about using scent-detection dogs to help them find living and deceased victims after mass disasters like earthquakes,” said Prue Armstrong, lead author from University of Technology-Sydney.

By analysing compounds present in decomposition odour, scientists determined that the odour profile changes drastically at the 43-hour mark.

The researchers identified 105 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that contributed to the odour during decomposition.

The VOCs they identified belong to several different chemical classes, and the most abundant contained either nitrogen, sulfur or ester compounds.

“We were quite surprised to be able to identify so many volatile organic compounds during the early postmortem period,” Armstrong said.

“We believe this was possible because we used GC×GC-TOFMS to analyse our decomposition odour samples. Previous studies using more simple chromatography techniques did not identify as many — or any — VOCs,” she added in a paper published in the journal Heliyon.

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