Scientists have found that a 5,300-year-old European mummy from the Copper Age may have suffered from an ancient bacteria that is still around today.
Ötzi, otherwise referred to as the “Iceman” was found by two German tourists near the Austrian-Italian border and as a result of the cold temperature and ice, was extremely well preserved.
Since his discovery, scientists have been able to ascertain a great deal about this ancient man: he was 1.65-metres tall, weighed about 50 kg and was about 45 years old. He had 61 tattoos and was lactose intolerant. And, he was murdered with an arrow to his back. Scientists were even able to decipher his genome.
But there’s always more to learn, and scientists decided to take a peek into Ötzi’s stomach. And they were surprised with what they found.
“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 Ötzi’s stomach mucosa is no longer there,” said paleopathologist Albert Zink who was involved in the study.
The samples showed that Ötzi’s stomach was home to a virulent strain of Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that is still very much around today, occurring in about 50 per cent of those living in low-income settings. In 10 per cent of cases, it can cause an ulcer. And, interestingly, it shares its ancestry with an Asian strain rather than the European strains today that have evolved from a North African strain.
This finding lends itself to mapping out the history of human geography. Scientists say that it suggests that the Indian strain once started off in Europe far before farmers made their way to the Middle East 4,000 years ago.
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