Biotech Updates

Team Sequences Genome of Ancient Bacteria from Ötzi the Iceman's Gut

January 13, 2016

An international team of researchers has completed the sequence of the oldest bacterial genome from the gut of Ötzi the Iceman. According to the paper published in Science, Ötzi was infected with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which also plagues modern humans.

The H. pylori strain that infected the Iceman contained genes that allow modern H. pylori to cause ulcers. The research team also identified protein fragments found in the inflamed stomach tissue of people harboring H. pylori. The Ötzi strain was genetically distinct from the H. pylori most common in modern Europe, which is a recombinant hybrid of two strains related to those that circulate in India and North Africa. Ötzi's H. pylori matches only the Indian strain.

The team suggests that the migration that brought the North African strain to Europe occurred after Ötzi died. It is also possible that other Europeans who lived at the same time as Ötzi harbored recombinant H. pylori.

For more details, read the news article in Nature.