Woman who can '˜sniff out' Parkinson's helps experts
Joy Milne from Perth, whose husband Les, a consultant anaesthetist, died in 2015 aged 65, noticed an unusual musky smell around a decade before he was diagnosed. She first stumbled across her unusual gift when Mr Milne started emitting a strange odour.
At first, Mrs Milne attributed the smell to bad hygiene on her husband’s part, but everything changed when the couple attended a Parkinson’s meeting.
She then realised that her husband smelt the same as the other people in the room and ten years later Mr Milne was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Mrs Milne said: “I smelled it ten to 12 years before Les was diagnosed.
“As the Parkinson’s got worse, the smell got worse.
“It became just part of him, but I with my sensitive sense of smell, I could smell it all the time and it became quite uncomfortable really, but I had the sense not to nag too much.”
According to Mrs Milne, Parkinson’s disease has a very thick, musky smell.
She added: “I’m in a tiny, tiny branch of the population, somewhere between a dog and a human.”
Tanith Muller, parliamentary and campaigns manager at Parkinson’s UK in Scotland, said: “This whole story started with Joy coming along to a Parkinson’s UK event.
“During a question and answer session, her claim to be able to smell Parkinson’s caught the attention of Parkinson’s UK – supported researcher Dr Tilo Kunath at the University of Edinburgh and he investigated further.
“Tilo’s initial findings – that Joy could indeed smell Parkinson’s – then led to Parkinson’s UK funding further research into whether Parkinson’s had its own aroma.”
Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological condition, for which there currently is no cure.
The main symptoms of the condition are tremor, slowness of movement and rigidity.
Parkinson’s affects around 11,000 people in Scotland – which is around one in 500 of the population.
Dr Arthur Roach, director of research at Parkinson’s UK, said: “It’s very early days in the research, but if it’s proved there is a unique odour associated with Parkinson’s, particularly early on in the condition, it could have a huge impact.
“Not just on early diagnosis, but it would also make it a lot easier to identify people to test drugs that may have the potential to slow, or even stop Parkinson’s, something no current drug can achieve.”