Local woman who can sniff out Parkinson’s Disease features in BBC documentary

Joy has astonished scientists with her ability to identify people suffering from Parkinson’s through smell.

A Tayside woman who has the ability to sniff out Parkinson’s Disease has appeared in a new BBC documentary.

Joy Milne, from Perth, first discovered she could smell the disease when her husband Les was diagnosed with the condition.

Last night, a BBC 1 documentary – ‘The Woman Who Can Smell Parkinson’s’ – told Joy’s story and gave her the chance to meet the scientists who are investigating this ground-breaking ability.

The hope is that research on Joy will lead to new advances in the treatment and detection of the disease.

Les was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1995. However, 12 years before his diagnosis Joy had noticed that Les began to smell differently. She questioned his hygiene and put it down to him possibly not cleaning thoroughly enough.

Following Les’s diagnosis over a decade later Joy attended a lecture given by the charity Parkinson’s UK.

Joy and Les on their wedding day.

During the talk Joy asked why sufferers smell differently, she later explained the question to speaker Dr Tilo Kunath and spoke of her experience with sniffing out her husband’s illness.

Dr Kunath was intrigued enough to explore Joy’s claims and helped run tests using T-shirts slept in by Parkinson’s sufferers. The tests confirmed Joy was able to distinguish the scent.

Dr Kunath, of the University of Edinburgh, previously said: “It was quite incredible.

“We tested her with clothes worn by sufferers and she was able to identify them without fail.

“If someone with Parkinson’s comes up behind her she will know. It’s almost like a super-power.”

Joy said of her ability: “I’ve always had a keen sense of smell and I detected very early on that there was a very subtle change in how Les smelled.

“It’s hard to describe but it was a heavy, slightly musky aroma. I had no idea that this was unusual and hadn’t been recognised before.”

Scientists now suspect that the condition may bring about a change in the chemical make-up of an oily substance in the skin known as sebum.

It is possible that Joy is one of a few people with a sense of smell strong enough to notice.

Parkinson’s UK is now funding researchers in Manchester, Edinburgh and London to study around 200 people with and without Parkinson’s in the hope that they will be able to confirm changes occuring within sebum at the onset of Parkinson’s.

Les unfortunately passed away in 2015 after a 20-year battle with the disease.