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New world Helicobacter pylori genome sequenced, dynamics of inflammation-related genes revealed
Date:6/16/2010

An international team of researchers led by scientists at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech have sequenced the genome of an Amerindian strain of the gastric bug Helicobacter pylori, confirming the out-of-Africa migration of this bacterial stowaway to the New World. Experiments in animals have highlighted how specific genes in the bacterial strain may be crucial to the onset of inflammation and disease.

H. pylori is a bacterium that colonizes the stomachs of over half the world's human population. Different strains of the bug have lived with, evolved and followed humans on their travels since ancient times. H. pylori is now recognized as a major risk factor in the development of stomach cancer and ulcers. However, the details of what make some strains of the bug trigger disease and others not need to be fully worked out.

Martin Blaser of the New York University Langone Medical Center, one of the authors of the study, remarked: "Most sequencing efforts for H. pylori have focused on the bacterial genomes from individuals of European descent. The new sequence information helps to redress the geographic bias of earlier work and reveals important clues about the evolution and migration of the bacterium and its human host into the New World."

To help visualize the evolutionary relationships among the different H. pylori strains, the team built a robust phylogenetic tree that helps show the evolutionary relationships among the different biological strains. The tree of life that the scientists were able to piece together reflected the major human migration out of Africa, through Asia and into the New World. Consistent with earlier findings, similarities between the genetic make-up of the Amerindian strain and the genome of a strain from East Asia suggest that the first colonizers of the New World brought H. pylori with them.

Josep Bassaganya-Riera, associate profes
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Contact: Barry Whyte
whyte@vbi.vt.edu
540-231-1767
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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