Previous studies have shown that women perceive male faces with a more reactive immune system as more attractive, but whether body odor might likewise provide cues to immune function has not been investigated yet. These two studies tested a possible relationship between body odor quality and immunoreactivity (Study 1) and immune system function (Study 2). In Study 1, we collected body odor samples from 21 men just before and two weeks after vaccination against hepatitis A/B and meningococcus. We determined the levels of specific antibodies (selected as markers of immune system’s reactivity), testosterone, and cortisol. Subsequently, 88 female raters assessed the odor samples for their attractiveness, intensity, and healthiness. In Study 2, we collected body odor and blood samples from 35 men and women. We assessed key parameters of their innate and adaptive immunity, such as complement activity or total lymphocyte T and B counts and asked 95 raters to assess the odor samples for their attractiveness, intensity, and healthiness. In Study 1, we found no significant association between antibody levels induced by vaccination and perceived body odor attractiveness, intensity, and healthiness. We also found no significant relationship between antibody levels and steroid hormones (testosterone and cortisol). In Study 2, we likewise found no association between basal key parameters (innate and adaptive) of the immune system and body odor quality. Our results indicate that body odor may not serve as a cue to the reactivity of the immune system.
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