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Bill Gates takes a snort of 'poop perfume.' For a good cause

Microsoft co-founder is helping to mask the smell of pit-style latrines in an attempt to stop the spread of disease in the developing world.

If you had Bill Gates' bank account, you could probably go through life smelling nothing but roses, champagne and the scent of newly printed money. But the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft and noted philanthropist recently chose to smell "poop perfume," and all for a good cause.

In his Gates Notes blog on Wednesday, the co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation writes about a partnership with a Swiss company, Firmenich, which is working with the foundation on global sanitation issues.

In many developing countries, toilet facilities smell so bad that people avoid them, using the outdoors as their potty. That, unsurprisingly, spreads disease.

An estimated 800,000 children die each year due to this lack of hygiene, says Patrick Firmenich, chairman of the Firmenich board. And while Poo-Pourri is available in much of the US, a scientific solution is preferable.

To test possible solutions, Firmenich had to make its own "poop perfume," mimicking the scent of a pit-style latrine. Gates bravely takes a big whiff. He colorfully describes the odor as "a strong kick to the nostrils, a potent combination of sewage stink, barnyard sweat, and bitter ammonia topped off with vomit (or was it Parmesan cheese?)."

Instead of just covering the odor with a perfume scent, Firmenich is working to fool the user's brain in the same way that noise-canceling headphones mask noises on airplanes.

"The ingredients in the fragrances developed by Firmenich inhibit the activation of the olfactory receptors sensitive to malodors," Gates writes. "By blocking the receptors, our brains do not perceive the bad smells."

Once Gates smells the "poop perfume" after it's been treated with the Firmenich fragrances, he's much happier. "Instead of stinky sewage, sweat, and ripe cheese, I sniffed a pleasant floral scent," he writes.

The company is launching pilot projects in India and Africa to perfect the project and try and make it affordable and easy-to-use. Gates seems enthusiastic about the potential, saying only one scent lingered from his poop perfume party -- "the smell of success."