New research has revealed that the chemical behind the smell of rotten eggs helps men become aroused.
Considered as a breakthrough in new impotence treatments, it is now known that small quantities of hydrogen sulphide are released by nerve cells in the penis before intercourse.
This is key in causing the male sex organ to become erect, Italian scientists have found.
The foul-smelling gas is more publicly apparent in larger amounts released by decaying eggs and from exhaust pipes of cars that use catalytic converters.
However, researchers are now adamant that it could be used to create a rival to Viagra.
Professor Giuseppe Cirino of the University of Naples Federico II who led the study told The Independent: "We found that hydrogen sulphide is involved in human penile erection.
"The hydrogen sulphide pathway represents a new therapeutic target for erectile dysfunction and it should be possible in future to deliver drugs that either deliver hydrogen sulphide or that control the hydrogen sulphide production."
A similar discovery regarding the role of another chemical, nitric oxide, in causing erections led to the development of Viagra, which stimulates blood supply to the penis.
The release of nitric oxide at the nerve endings in close proximity to the blood vessels of the penis controls the human erection. When relaxed, these blood vessels allow a steady flow into the penis and collects in special cavities (the corpus cavernosum) which causes the organ to swell into an erection.
Viagra works by stimulating the flow of blood into the penis while decreasing the flow out of the organ, therefore - maintaining an erection that might have otherwise dissipated rapidly.
Still, roughly 30% of men do not react to the famed anti-impotence drug but they may benefit from a new medication based on hydrogen sulphide.
Dr Graham Jackson, chairman of the Sexual Dysfunction Association, stated that the development of an alternative impotence drug is vital.
Breaking the ice
Do you know your own sexual health?
The research was based on tests carried out on erectile tissue removed from eight male-to-female transsexuals who had their sex organs removed.
Its findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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