The 700-year-old Mexican mummy with a tummy ache

Jul 15, 2008
A mummy. Credit: Yolanda Lopez Vidal and Gonzalo Castillo-Rojas

Remnants of the bacterium that causes stomach ulcers, Helicobacter pylori, (H. pylori) have been discovered in gastric tissue from North American mummies. A study of human remains believed to predate Columbus' discovery of the New World has shown for the first time that H. pylori infection occurred in native populations, according to research published in BioMed Central's open access journal, BMC Microbiology.

Yolanda Lòpez-Vidal and colleagues from the National Autonomous University of Mexico studied the stomach, tongue-soft palate and brains of two naturally mummified corpses - one young boy and one adult male. The researchers looked for the presence of telltale fragments of H. pylori DNA in the remains after amplification by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). According to Lòpez-Vidal, "Our results show that H. pylori infections occurred around 1350AD in the area we now know as Mexico".

Although previous research has suggested that H. pylori was present in these communities, this is the first evidence that it caused gastric infections. Lòpez-Vidal explains, "It is only through the use of the stomach tissue of these incredible mummies that we were able to make this discovery. Infection is established when the micro-organism infiltrates the stomach lining and induces a local inflammatory response. This is unlike colonisation, which does not cause such a response and does not occur in the stomach".

As well as stomach ulcers, H. pylori causes gastritis, duodenitis, and cancer. It is a helix-shaped bacteria that is believed to be transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with faecal matter.

Source: BioMed Central

Explore further: Parks Service bans drones over Appalachian Trail

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

UMSL scholar examines evolution of learning

2 hours ago

Why do monkeys learn to be afraid of snakes and not flowers? Is this knowledge the result of evolution by natural selection? Did the monkeys that couldn't learn that association quickly die and not reproduce?

Study details shortage of replication in education research

2 hours ago

Although replicating important findings is essential for helping education research improve its usefulness to policymakers and practitioners, less than one percent of the articles published in the top education research journals ...

Samsung introduces Galaxy Alpha

2 hours ago

Samsung Electronics unveiled its new design approach with the Galaxy Alpha. The latest addition to Samsung's Galaxy smartphone line, the Galaxy Alpha features a sophisticated design in a carefully constructed ...

People fake to look authentic on social media

2 hours ago

Presenting an authentic image on social network sites (SNSs) includes an element of fakery according to a new study by researchers at Aalto University. During the study, researchers discovered that being authentic is very ...

Recommended for you

Orb-weaving spiders living in urban areas may be larger

18 hours ago

A common orb-weaving spider may grow larger and have an increased ability to reproduce when living in urban areas, according to a study published August 20, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Eli ...

User comments : 0