Helped restore the genome. E. coli found in Italian mummy
This discovery sheds light on the evolution of the E. coli bacterium, its role in our diet and potential resistance to antibiotics.
Escherichia coli, commonly known as E. coli, is a type of bacteria commonly found in the intestines of humans and animals. Most E. coli bacteria are harmless, but some can cause serious food poisoning and digestive problems, writes Ancient Origins.
Carefully studied since the 19th century, the history of the pathogen E. coli eluded scientists for a long time, but in the course of their new study, the experts made a breakthrough. So Canadian scientists have extracted the genetic code of E. coli from a 436-year-old Italian mummy. Taking the mummy of the Neapolitan nobleman Giovanni d'Avalos, who died in 1586 at the age of 48, scientists conducted the first-of-its-kind genetic analysis of an ancient strain of this bacterium.
In particular, they found an infection in the gallstone. Experts were able to isolate and genetically sequence the microbe. But what remains unclear is whether this E. coli was the cause of the nobleman's death. Further research is needed to find out.
Bacteria necessary for good bowel function and digestion are especially active during periods of illness or immunodeficiency. There are several types of Escherichia coli. For example, those bacteria found in the large intestine are good bacteria that help us digest food, while bad bacteria can cause stomach pain, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and even kidney failure.
“When we studied these remains, we had no evidence that the man had E. coli. Unlike an infection such as smallpox, there are no physiological manifestations. Nobody knew what it was, “explained the lead author of the new study, scientist George Long McMaster University.
E. Coli Giovanni
In the nobleman's case, the research team found thickened gallbladder walls and several intact gallstones, indicating cholecystitis caused by chronic bacterial infection. This was also confirmed by the typical brown color of the gallstone, indicating a bacterial infection.
The researchers extracted DNA from the gallstone and reconstructed the E. coli genome. Long added that this particular strain of E. coli could thrive in a favorable environment and compete with other bacteria. In this case, that environment was Giovanni's gallbladder.
This groundbreaking discovery sheds new light on the evolution of E. coli, its role in our diet, and potential antibiotic resistance.