Most of us have thought about how we would survive in a zombie apocalypse, and now scientists have now added another weapon to your theoretical arsenal of zombie survival: a death scent.
Raychelle Burks, a chemist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has identified the chemicals that she says could protect you during a zombie attack, by making you smell just like them. "We want to disguise ourselves, blend in with the surroundings… We need to cover up our natural scent to fool this environment. We need to smell like zombies," Burks said in an interview with Scientific American.
Smelling like a zombie might be a great survival mechanism, but it would not be pleasant. All of the chemicals together, unsurprisingly, smell a lot like rotting flesh.
:Putrescine and cadaverine are two that are appropriately named. They form when amino acids break down and they smell kind of skunky, and sulphurous, and like human faeces. Then there is dimethyl disulphide, which smells like rotting cabbage," says Burks.
"A related compound, dimethyl trisulphide, smells like an open, festering wound. Another chemical produced by rotting flesh, skatole, also makes people think of faeces when they get a whiff."
Burks hopes to use the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli) to produce most of these chemicals - with putrescine, cadaverine and sulphydryl all being produced using E. coli in past studies.
Now all that needs to be done is mixing them all together in a lotion or spray for portable use in case of a zombie attack. “You’d probably want lots of options - maybe a cream for personal use and a spray to camouflage where you live, so your house would not smell so alive.”
And don’t worry, Burks’s research does have a more serious side - she’s figuring out how to reproduce the human death scent so forensic teams can more effectively train cadaver dogs to locate bodies in natural disasters or in missing person’s cases.
Back in September, researchers in Belgium announced that they’d identified the exact combination of chemicals produced by a rotting human body for the first time.
These differ slightly from the death scents of pigs and other animals, with five compounds specific to decomposing humans. These compounds, collectively known as esters, are also responsible for the aroma of some fruits.
Unfortunately, scientists don’t yet know the correct ratio for these chemicals, and Burks is still on the hunt for other chemicals that may work even better to stop zombies from eating you alive.
Right now, she’s working on producing enough ‘death stench’ chemicals for commercial use, but hopefully will have something by the time a zombie apocalypse ever happens. "We do not want to be testing in the middle of a zombie apocalypse," she says. "We want to know we have something that works (by then)."