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Research on the geographically based genetic differences in Helicobacter pylori show that the stomach bacteria is intimately tied to man.

By Nikhil Swaminathan


In 1985 Australian microbiologist Barry Marshall gobbled a petri dish full of Helicobacter pylori to prove to the world that the bacteria, rather than stress and spicy foods, were the primary cause of stomach ulcers. Two decades later his recklessness was honored with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, which he shared with his colleague J. Robin Warren.

In light of a new study, published in this week's issue of Nature, it is odd that it took so long to finger H. pylori as the source of bouts of abdominal pain, nausea and hemorrhagic vomiting. According to the new work, the pathogen has infected humans for over 60,000 years and its genetic transformation over that time is remarkably similar to that of man—making it a reasonable model for human migration and diversification.

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