Fish Odor Syndrome (Trimethylaminuria)

What is fish odor syndrome (trimethylaminuria)?

Trimethylaminuria is a disorder in which the body is unable to break down trimethylamine, a compound derived from the diet that has a strong odor of rotting fish.

What are the signs and symptoms of fish odor syndrome (trimethylaminuria)?

As trimethylamine builds up in the body, it causes affected people to give off a fish-like odor in their sweat, urine, and breath. The intensity of this odor may vary over time. The strong body odor can interfere with many aspects of daily life, affecting a person's relationships, social life, and career. Some people with trimethylaminuria experience depression and social isolation as a result of this condition.

What causes fish odor syndrome (trimethylaminuria)?

Although gene mutations account for most cases of trimethylaminuria, the condition can also be caused by other factors. A fish-like body odor may result from an excess of certain proteins in the diet or from an increase in bacteria that normally produce trimethylamine in the digestive system. A few cases of the disorder have been identified in adults with liver or kidney disease. Temporary symptoms of this condition have been reported in a small number of premature infants and in some healthy women at the start of menstruation.

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