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Iceman’s stomach bug may shed new light on his origins

5300-year-old Helicobacter pylori genome of the Iceman

Go to the profile of Heidi Burdett
Jan 15, 2016
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Did Oetzi the Iceman, a 5300 year-old Copper Age mummy discovered in the Alps in 1991, have a stomach bug when he died? This is the question the press have been asking this week given recent findings published by Maixner and colleagues in Science where they identify Helicobacter pylori in his stomach contents. Today, H. pylori is one of the most prevalent human pathogens causing stomach ulcers and gastritis, hence the questions from the press about this guy’s tummy upsets.

However, this research may also provide new clues about the wider migration of humans during the Copper Age. Interestingly, the strain found in Oetzi is most similar to that found in Central and South Asia today. Today’s European strain is a combination of African and Asian strains, suggesting that sometime after Oetzi’s death a second wave of migration from Africa came to Europe, bringing their H. pylori strain with them.

With each new paper we learn a little more about the Iceman, the way he lived, and his origins; I’m sure there is still more to come.

Maixner et al’s Science paper was covered in a number of news outlets such as the BBC, Science Daily, Scientific American, The Washington Post and National Geographic.

Go to the profile of Heidi Burdett

Heidi Burdett

Editor, Nature Microbiology

2 Comments

Go to the profile of Chloe F Hutchins
Chloe F Hutchins over 2 years ago

Bioarchaeology is really fascinating, it's such a shame the funding is poor (most PhD positions are self-funded). I found it interesting that after reaching out to contacts in this field, I was informed that they preferred taking historians/archaeologists and teaching them the genetics/microbiology, rather than taking microbiologists and teaching them archaeology!

Go to the profile of Chloe F Hutchins
Chloe F Hutchins over 2 years ago

Bioarchaeology is really fascinating, it's such a shame the funding is poor (most PhD positions are self-funded). I found it interesting that after reaching out to contacts in this field, I was informed that they preferred taking historians/archaeologists and teaching them the genetics/microbiology, rather than taking microbiologists and teaching them archaeology!