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Clin Microbiol Infect. 2009 Sep;15(9):829-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2009.02967.x.

Helicobacter pylori typing as a tool for tracking human migration.

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Department of Environmental and Preventive Medicine, Oita University Faculty of Medicine, Yufu-city, Oita, Japan.


Helicobacter pylori strains from different geographic areas exhibit clear phylogeographical differentiation; therefore, the genotypes of H. pylori strains can serve as markers for the migration of human populations. Currently, the genotypes of two virulence factors of H. pylori, cagA and vacA, and multilocus sequence typing (MLST) are widely used markers for genomic diversity within H. pylori populations. There are two types of cagA: the East Asian type and the Western type. In addition, the right end of the cag pathogenicity island is divided into five subtypes and there are distinct mosaic structures at the signal region and the middle region of vacA. Using combinations of the cagA, cag right end junction, and vacA genotypes, five major groups (East Asia type, South/Central Asia type, Iberian/Africa type and Europe type) have been defined according to geographical associations. MLST has revealed seven modern population types and six ancestral population types of H. pylori, and is a useful tool for mapping human migration patterns. Serial studies of large numbers of H. pylori strains, including strains isolated from aboriginal populations, show that MLST analysis provides more detailed information on human migration than does the analysis of human genetics. H. pylori infection is rapidly declining as a result of improvements in personal hygiene and quality of life. The molecular epidemiology of H. pylori infection has much to tell us and should be studied before it disappears entirely.

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