Olfactory dysfunction is a common symptom of various diseases, but the underlying pathophysiology has not been fully understood. Evidence from both animal and human studies suggests that local inflammation of the olfactory epithelium is linked to olfactory dysfunction. However, whether systemic inflammation causes olfactory dysfunction is yet to be determined. In the present behavioral study, we set out to test whether acute systemic inflammation impairs olfactory identification performance by inducing a transient and controlled state of systemic inflammation using an experimental endotoxemia model. We treated young healthy participants (N = 20) with a relatively high dose (2.0 ng/kg) of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and a placebo treatment in a double-blind within-subject design, and assessed participants’ ability to identify odors using the MONEX-40, a reliable method for experimental assessment of odor identification ability in healthy and young individuals. Our results show that olfactory identification performance was not affected by the acute systemic inflammation triggered by the injection of LPS. Moreover, odor identification performance following the LPS injection was not associated with levels of circulating proinflammatory cytokines (interleukin-6, interleukin-8, and tumor necrosis factor-α). Because experimental LPS-induced systemic inflammation does not affect olfactory identification performance, our findings suggest that chronic, rather than transient, systemic inflammation is a more likely mechanism to explore in order to explain the olfactory deficits observed in inflammatory diseases.

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