Helicobacter pylori and Out of India Theory

Helicobacter pylori
Helicobacter pylori (via Wikipedia)

This is not a picture of a galaxy, but of your stomach. What you see is Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori, a bacterium found in our stomach. This particular bacterium is found in the stomach of half of the world’s population and is more than 100,000 years old. When our ancestor left Africa on their worldwide migration, this bacterium was present in their stomach. Currently, that one strain has seven different variations tied to different geographies. Thus, there is a variation for Europe, few for Africa and a couple for Asia.

The current strain which is found in Europeans came from two sources Ancestral Europe 1 and Ancestral Europe 2 (AE1 and AE2). It is believed that AE1 originated in Central Asia and AE2 in North-East Africa. The admixture of these two strains occurred sometime between 10,000 and 52,000 years back.

A recent study, which looked at the gastrointestinal tract of a 5300 yr old iceman has revealed some interesting information about this person. This iceman lived in the Italian Alps and was probably a European farmer. When he was between 40 and 50 years old, he was murdered by someone using an arrow. He is called an iceman because his body was preserved  by freeze drying in a glacier.

Analysis of the bacterium revealed that he did not have the strain that most modern Europeans have. His strain was from India, especially North India. This strain was also the co-ancestor of the current European strain.  What this tells us is that the India strain was present in Europe during the copper age; there was a movement of people into Europe  during that period.  This strain, which was found in the iceman’s body is also different from the strain that modern Indians have. This tells us that that people went from India to Europe, stayed there and were genetically isolated from the Indian population. This isolated group became ancestral to the European strain.

If you look at the age of the iceman, you will find that he lived in 3200 B.C.E. This was the Early Period of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization. According to the Invasion Theories, the invasion would happen almost a millennia later. Now evidence says that, while Sarasvati was flowing and many sites existed on its banks, there was an Indian strain of bacterium going Out of India. Was this iceman an original resident of North India who reached the Italian Alps or was he one of the descendants of an earlier migration? We don’t know.  But the fact that Indians moved to Europe should not come as a surprise. If you look at the trading hubs of the ancient world, this movement was quite common.

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References:

  1. The 5300-year-old Helicobacter pylori genome of the Iceman
  2. Supplemental Material

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