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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Presence of Helicobacter pylori in a Mexican Pre-Columbian Mummy

Gonzalo Castillo-Rojas1, Marco A Cerbón2 and Yolanda López-Vidal1*

Author affiliations

1 Programa de Inmunología Molecular Microbiana, Departamento de Microbiología y Parasitología. Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico

2 Departamento de Biología. Facultad de Química, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico

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Citation and License

BMC Microbiology 2008, 8:119  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-8-119

Published: 15 July 2008



Recent studies showed that Helicobacter pylori existed in the New World prior to the arrival of Columbus. The purpose of the present study was to detect the presence of Helicobacter pylori in pre-Columbian mummies from Northern Mexico.


Six samples were studied (four samples of gastric remains, tongue-soft palate, and brain remained as negative controls) from two of the six naturally mummified corpses studied (adult male and infant male). Samples were taken from tissues suitable for DNA amplification by Polymerase chain reaction (PCR). DNA was extracted and H. pylori detection was carried out by PCR and hybridized with the pHp probe from 16S rRNA gene. The purified PCR products were cloned and sequenced in both directions. DNA sequences were analyzed with ALIGN and BLAST software. A second amplification was performed using ureB gene by real-time PCR.


From four samples of gastric remnant, only two were H. pylori-positive for amplification of a 109 bp DNA fragment; the remaining two were negative, as were the tongue-soft palate and the brain biopsies as well. These PCR products were hybridized with a pHp probe. Nucleotide sequence analysis showed homology with H. pylori in 98 of 99% when compared with the gene bank nucleotide sequence. Only one sample of gastric remnant H. pylori-positive with 16S rRNA gene was also positive for ureB gene from H. pylori.


This data supported infection with H. pylori in Mexican pre-Columbian mummies dating from approximately 1,350 AC.