The pungent smell of the spray associated with skunks has inspired countless home remedies over the years, including tomato juice, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, but researchers at the University of Oklahoma have identified a compound from fungi that safely and effectively neutralizes skunk spray odor.
OU Regents’ Professor Robert Cichewicz and his team at the Natural Products Discovery Group published their findings in a recent edition of the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Natural Products.
The team previously identified a fungi, called pericosine A, and wondered how it would react with the chemicals in skunk spray. Different compounds from the skunk spray were each mixed with pericosine A, and two were neutralized by the fungi. Then, the team slightly altered the structure of pericosine A and adjusted other ingredients in the reaction. That change produced a formula that would be safer and more effective for skin application following a skunk attack.
“We have laid the foundation for how one would go about using it, and have provided an initial assessment of its safety,” said Cichewicz. “We are looking forward to see how it could be used commercially.”
The NPDG Lab uses a variety of chemical and molecular research methods for converting chemicals found in nature into compounds that can improve people’s lives. The lab is known for the “What’s In Your Backyard” program, providing citizen scientists an opportunity to send in samples from their dirt at home to see if any compounds could be isolated to help cure disease. Science Museum Oklahoma hosted an exhibit of the lab’s work in their “Decomposition: Discovering the Beauty and Magnificence of Fungi” in 2018.