Published online Nov 14, 2019. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v25.i42.6289
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.
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.