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Genome Dyn. 2009;6:62-74. doi: 10.1159/000235763. Epub 2009 Aug 19.

Helicobacter pylori Sequences Reflect Past Human Migrations.


The long association between the stomach bacterium Helicobacter pylori and humans, in combination with its predominantly within-family transmission route and its exceptionally high DNA sequence diversity, make this bacterium a reliable marker for discerning both recent and ancient human population movements. As much of the diversity in H. pylori sequences is generated by recombination and mutation on a local scale, the partitioning of H. pylori sequences from a large globally distributed data set into six geographic populations enabled the detection of recent ( < 500 years) human population movements including the European colonial expansion and the slave trade. The further separation of bacterial populations into distinct sub-populations traced prehistoric population movements like the settlement of the Americas by Asians across the Bering Strait and the Bantu migrations in Africa. The ability to deduce ancestral population structure from modern sequences was a key development that allowed the detection of zones of admixture, such as Europe, and the inference of multiple migration waves into these zones. The significantly similar global population structure of both H. pylori and humans confirmed not only an evolutionary time-scale association between host and parasite, but also that humans had carried H. pylori in their stomachs on their migrations out of Africa.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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