Otzi The Iceman Mummy Had 5300-Year-Old Stomach Bacteria

Posted: Jan 8 2016, 5:23am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Otzi The Iceman Mummy had 5300-Year-Old Stomach Bacteria
This is a picture of the Iceman (reconstruction by Adrie and Alfons Kennis). Credit: Reconstruction by Kennis, South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, Foto Ochsenreiter
  • Scientists find Stomach Bug inside Otzi the Iceman’s Gut

Scientists have found a stomach bug inside Otzi the Iceman’s gut. The bacteria is Helicobacter pylori to be exact.

Scientists are all the time finding fresh data from the remains of Otzi the Iceman, whose frozen carcass was discovered in 1991 in a glacier. About half a decade ago, Otzi’s genome had been decoded completely.

Many believed that the wellspring of knowledge would stop flowing now that everything that could be known had been unearthed about Otzi. But there lay more than just the surface phenomena in this study in ice.

The latest evidence of the presence of Helicobacter pylori bacteria in Otzi’s stomach seems to trump the rest of the discoveries. This stomach bug is found in half of the human beings alive today.

That most human beings were infected with this bug at the dawn of history is the truth. The genome of the bacterium was also sequenced. When the Iceman’s stomach was carefully seen beneath a microscope, the bug was detected.

One of the scientists said that: “Evidence for the presence of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori is found in the stomach tissue of patients today, so we thought it was extremely unlikely that we would find anything because Otzi’s stomach mucosa is no longer there.”

The researchers tried to find novel methods of progress. When the whole of the DNA was extracted from the stomach contents, the genome of the 5300 year old Helicobacter pylori was sequenced. It seems that Otzi’s immune system had reacted to a very strong bacteria.

Many people infected with such a bacteria go on to develop gastritis and ulcers. Whether Otzi had suffered from any such symptoms will remain a mystery for his stomach tissue hasn’t withstood the test of time.

But even bigger surprises lay ahead. When scientists sequenced the genome of the stomach bug, it was found that Otzi’s infection was common not in European inhabitants of that age but in those of Central and South Asian lineage.

Originally, scientists had believed that there was an African and an Asian version of the bacterium. These two were supposed to have combined to have formed the European type.

The history of the world population matches the spread of this stomach bug. Research on Otzi refutes many previously held beliefs. The combination of an Asian and an African bacterium must have occurred after Otzi and the Ice Age.

The research is published today in the journal Science.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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