STATES CHRONICLE – A mummified iceman revealed more about stomach bacteria to researchers who recently collected samples of its organ. The discovery aided in finding the definitive and complete DNA sequence of the ulcer bacterium that plagues around 50% of today’s world’s population.
Ötzi the Iceman was first discovered in 1991 in the Eastern Italian Alps. Since then, scientists have conducted extensive study on the mummified body that was well preserved within the cold and ice for over 5,300 years. The Iceman provided invaluable information about the life of ancient Europeans, but his frozen tissues recently revealed more information.
After recovering samples, the team of researchers found traces of Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that is found in the stomach of half the modern population and causes ulcer in 10% of cases. Since it can only be transmitted through intimate contact, its spreading is almost perfectly aligned with the distribution of the human population throughout the world. That aided the scientists in perfectly tracking down its patterns.
According to the researchers from the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman, today’s Europeans carry a specific strain of H. pylori. It’s a mix between two ancient strains, one belonging to the population in Eurasia and another to humans in Africa. A theory suggests that the hybridization process between the two occurred in the Middle East due to the Last Glacial Maximum.
The last ice age made most of Europe uninhabitable and it forced the population to retreat to other regions to escape the blistering winters. Around 20,000 years ago, the ice and cold began to pull back, so ancient humans from the Middle East returned Europe. It’s believed that it was the moment when the hybridization between the two H. pylori strains was carried to European lands.
However, Ötzi the Iceman displays solely the Eurasian strain instead of the mix. That means that the hybridization actually might’ve occurred at another point in time, much later than previously believed. Given the mummified body’s age, researchers suggested that it occurred at some point in the last 5,000 years, instead of the 20,000 years previously believed.
Or, the combined strain could have been brought over around 8,000 years ago by the first farmers who also triggered the agricultural revolution in Europe. Regardless of which theory is right, the findings suggest that the hybrid strain is much younger than previously thought. The samples allowed the scientists to construct its entire DNA sequence.
Its presence also means that Ötzi the Iceman likely suffered from an upset stomach and probably had ulcer.
Image source: wired.co.uk