An analysis of the stomach contents from a 5,300-year-old European mummy known as Ötzi the Iceman has turned up a double surprise, scientists say.
First, the researchers found DNA traces of a nasty strain of bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, which is linked to ulcers. That discovery, paired with the presence of other immune-system proteins, suggests that the Iceman could have been suffering from stomach problems in addition to his other maladies – ranging from hardening of the arteries and lactose intolerance to Lyme disease and bad teeth.
The second surprise came when the research team looked more closely at the bacteria’s genome. The DNA sequence showed that the bacterial strain wasn’t the one that’s most common in Europeans today, but is linked instead to modern-day populations in South Asia.
That finding appears to answer questions relating to the peopling of Europe thousands of years ago, the researchers report in this week’s issue of the journal Science.