Ötzi’s Tummy Bug

10 Jan

Researchers probe Ötzi’s mummified gut tissue for clues about the gut bugs he carried.

(Image above is from Here)

Otzi the iceman was an individual murdered some 5,300 years ago. In his stomach, was an ancient strain of Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which is most similar to modern Asian strains.

By sequencing the genome of this ancient pathogen, which can cause ulcers in people today, researchers have made a surprising discovery about Ötzi’s own history: His ancestors inherited bacteria from Asia rather than Africa, suggesting that the predecessors of early European farmers had intimate contact with Asians before they migrated to Europe.

(Gibbons. 2016. Accessed Online 10/01/2016.

So what does this mean? Well… The strain found inside the stomach of Otzi is unexpected. Otzis DNA closely resembles that of early European farmers which originated from the Middle East. However, the bacterial strain in his stomach is more related to Asia and India today – this is suggestive of a ‘new’ scenario.

The ancestors of early European farmers such as Ötzi must have carried H. pylori with DNA from Asian strains perhaps in the Middle East before they migrated to Europe. Then, new immigrants carrying African microbes arrived in Europe much later, after Ötzi lived. The two types of microbes mixed in these migrants, creating today’s European strain much more recently than expected.

(Gibbons. 2016. Accessed Online 10/01/2016.

Therefore what was previously thought to have been an ancient genetic trait and microbial strain has turned out to be a more ‘recent’ evolution, and one which may have happened in a relatively short period of time.

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Posted by on January 10, 2016 in Uncategorized


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