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Presence of Helicobacter pylori in a Mexican Pre-Columbian Mummy

Gonzalo Castillo-Rojas, Marco A Cerbón and Yolanda López-Vidal*

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

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Comments, missing information and inaccuracies

Josefina Mansilla   (2008-08-11 11:55)  Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia de Mexico email

We read with interest the report by Castillo-Rojas, et al (1) regarding the Presence of Helicobacter pylori in a Mexican Pre-Columbian Mummy.

As part of the research group, we would like to make some comments, to add missing information and to clarify some inaccuracies.

This research was conducted in 2003 by our multidisciplinary team including diverse medical specialists (gastroenterologist-endoscopist, general surgeon, rheumatologist, and radiologist), physical anthropologists and biologists from different Mexican institutions, some of them unaware of the submission and publication of the paper.

A full length article for the Proceedings of the VI World Congress on Mummy Studies 2007 was submitted for publication to the Editorial Service of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain (2).

After a comprehensive review of the anthropologic research protocol and records, preserved in the Physical Anthropology department of the National Institute of Anthropology and History we become aware that, the mummy in figure 1 highlighted with a yellow box does not correspond to the mummy that was H. pylori-positive as stated by the authors; instead, the mummified body from which H. pylori was identify is the one to the left, officially registered as F8, recovered from the burial cave of “La Ventana”.

Description of the La Ventana cave-F8 corps:

Individual of male gender, with a radiographic calculated age between 50 and 60 years. The mummify body segments (head and chest) that were in direct contact with the floor of the cave were deteriorated, with missing soft-tissue fragments. The textiles from the funerary apparel have small feathers attached to the skin. Samples were collected from dental tartar, an upper canine, tongue-soft palate, pleura, remnant stomach, colon, diaphragmatic dome, and coprolite.

The precise chronology is 1095 AD ± 30-years; obtained from the upper left incisor at the Oxford radiocarbon accelerator unit, Research Laboratory for Archaeology in Oxford, England. The radiocarbon-date mentioned in the paper, 1350 AD, is referred by Aveleyra (3) for a different funerary cave, the Candelaria, located in a semi desert zone of the state of Coahuila in northern Mexico. One human bone sample and one textile fragment in that cave were dated as being from 1095 to 1350 AD.

The study protocol applied on all mummies included: Paleopathologic evaluation, macroscopic observations (including the body’s posture, conservation status, funerary apparel, and external evaluation, evidence of pathological conditions and traumatic lesions, and imaging findings). Children’s age was determined through dental formation (4), and length of long bones (5). For adults, Harnishms and Iscan (6), and Ferembach et al. (7) methods were applied.

In all five mummified bodies a comprehensive high-resolution X-ray protocol was obtained. Paleobotanic studies were conducted with a stereo and polarized light microscopy for identification the nature of the raw material used in the manufacture of textiles from funerary bundles,

Finally, no authorization by the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico to publish the images of the mummies was obtained. Photocomposition in Figure 1 is distorted, since it was not provided by the photograph department of the National Institute of Anthropology and History.

This new data provide complementary information regarding the methodology used in the study, give accuracy to the location and chronology of the specimen and identify the exact mummified body from which Helicobacter pylor-positive samples were collected. Furthermore, the Pre-Columbian origin of the mummy is now supported by an accurate technique, giving further support to the theory of the Asiatic origin of Helicobacter pylori.

References

1 Castillo-Rojas G, Cerbón MA, López-Vidal Y., Presence of Helicobacter pylori in a mexican pre-columbian mummy. BMC Microbiol. 2008 Jul 15; 8: 119.

2 Mansilla J, C Pineda, Y López Vidal, Fernando Mundo, Felipe Urbina, Luis Amezcua, Ilán Leboreiro, Carmen Pijoan. 2008. Estudio de PCR microbiano en momias mexicanas. In:Pablo Atoche (ed)Proceedings of the VI World Congress on Mummy Studies 2007.University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

3 Aveleyra, L., Sobre dos fechas de radiocarbono 14 para la Cueva de la Candelaria, Coahuila. Anales del INAH : INAH-SEP México 1964; 1:125-130.

4 Iscan, M.H., (ed.), 1989. Age markers in the human skeleton. Springfield: Charles & Thomas Publishers.

4 Ubelaker, D., 1994. Human skeletal remains. Excavation, analysis and interpretation. Washington: Taraxacum.

5 Johnston, F., Growth of the long bones of infants and young children at indian Knoll. Am J Phys Anthrop. 1962; 20:249-254.

6 Harnishms, A., M.H. Iscan, 1989. Radiographic aging of the adult. In:Iscan M.H., (ed.) Age markers in the human skeleton. Springfield:Charles & Thomas: 169-193.

7 Ferembach D, Schwidetzky I, Stloukal M., Recommandations pour determiner l’age et le sexe sur le squelette. Bull et Mem de la Soc d’Anthrop de Paris. 1979; 6:7-45.

Josefina Mansilla Lory

In charge of the Mexican

Mummies Project,

Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.

Carlos Pineda, MD

Biomedical research subdirector

Instituto Nacional de Rehabilitación

Mexico, City

Competing interests

None declared

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