Copyright ©The Author(s) 2019. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Gastroenterol. Nov 14, 2019; 25(42): 6289-6298
Published online Nov 14, 2019. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v25.i42.6289
Helicobacter pylori in ancient human remains
Frank Maixner, Kaisa Thorell, Lena Granehäll, Bodo Linz, Yoshan Moodley, Thomas Rattei, Lars Engstrand, Albert Zink
Frank Maixner, Lena Granehäll, Albert Zink, Institute for Mummy Studies, EURAC Research, Bolzano 39100, Italy
Kaisa Thorell, Department of Infectious Diseases, University of Gothenburg, Göteborg SE405 30, Sweden
Bodo Linz, Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, United States
Yoshan Moodley, Department of Zoology, University of Venda, Thohoyandou 0950, South Africa
Thomas Rattei, Department of Microbiology and Ecosystem Science, University of Vienna, Vienna 1090, Austria
Lars Engstrand, Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm 141 83, Sweden
Author contributions: All authors equally contributed to this paper with conception and design of the study, literature review and analysis, drafting and critical revision and editing, and final approval of the final version.
Supported by the Programma Ricerca Budget prestazioni Eurac 2017 of the Province of Bolzano, Italy.
Conflict-of-interest statement: No potential conflicts of interest.
Open-Access: This is an open-access article that was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Corresponding author: Frank Maixner, PhD, Senior Researcher, Institute for Mummy Studies, EURAC Research, Viale Druso 1, Bolzano 39100, Italy.
Telephone: +39-471-055567 Fax: +39-471-055579
Received: June 28, 2019
Peer-review started: June 28, 2019
First decision: July 20, 2019
Revised: September 13, 2019
Accepted: November 1, 2019
Article in press: November 1, 2019
Published online: November 14, 2019

The bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infects the stomachs of approximately 50% of all humans. With its universal occurrence, high infectivity and virulence properties it is considered as one of the most severe global burdens of modern humankind. It has accompanied humans for many thousands of years, and due to its high genetic variability and vertical transmission, its population genetics reflects the history of human migrations. However, especially complex demographic events such as the colonisation of Europe cannot be resolved with population genetic analysis of modern H. pylori strains alone. This is best exemplified with the reconstruction of the 5300-year-old H. pylori genome of the Iceman, a European Copper Age mummy. Our analysis provided precious insights into the ancestry and evolution of the pathogen and underlined the high complexity of ancient European population history. In this review we will provide an overview on the molecular analysis of H. pylori in mummified human remains that were done so far and we will outline methodological advancements in the field of ancient DNA research that support the reconstruction and authentication of ancient H. pylori genome sequences.

Keywords: Helicobacter pylori, Ancient DNA, Evolution, Iceman, Ancient gut contents, Coprolites

Core tip: The molecular analysis of ancient human remains holds the potential to reconstruct Helicobacter pylori genomes dating to various time periods from all over the world. This will provide precious insights into the virulence evolution and population history of this important stomach pathogen.