Skip to main content


Bacteria Working in the Shadows: Brevibacterium linens
  • Author:
  • Updated:

"Hey, everybody! She's cool with 'Smelliot,'" chimes ne'er-do-well, John Dorian from TV's Scrubs. Everyone knows a Smelliot. Smelliot was the social outcast in grade school burdened by his parents with an unfortunate name and so, in retribution, assumed an arsenal of poor hygiene habits to stave off childhood teasing.

Gram-positive, rod-shaped bacterium, Brevibacterium linens, is the Smelliot of the microbial world. Found in dairy products, fresh and salt water, soil, insects and decaying organic matter, Smelliot can be grown in a broad range of pH levels and salinity.

Most know Smelliot by its discernable odor. Found on human feet, Brevibacterium ingest dead skin cells and produce a variety of sulfur and ammonia compounds through the conversion of amino acid into methanethiol. Smelliot is the reason your hard-worked feet produce a pungent aroma.

Click here to return to the main page.

Click here to return to the main page.

There is a valuable lesson in the tale of The Ugly Duckling, and so too in the world of odor-producing bacteria. Smelliot is important to the industry of fine cheese. Brevibacterium linens are used in fermentation and define the flavor, texture and appearance of some European smear cheeses like Limburger, Port-du-salut and Năsal.

So we find the world's Smelliots grow into fine contributions to society.