The Bugs Tell The Story

A fascinating article from a science blog I read from time to time - 

This year’s Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology was announced this morning. Barry Marshall and J. Robin Warren won for discovering that ulcers can be caused not by stress or genes but by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (shown here)

…Helicobacter infects half of all people on Earth…The scientists documented a surprising variety of genes in the bacteria. Each ethnic group they looked at carried a distinctive strain.

As scientists got to know the global variation of Helicobacter better, they began to discover a remarkable pattern. They mapped out an evolutionary tree of the strains of the bacteria and found that it lined up very well with the migrations of humans over the past 50,000 years. One study looked at the Ladakh province of northern India. Muslims and Buddhists have coexisted there for 1000 [years] but remain isolated from one another. It turns out that Muslim Ladakhs only carry a European strain of Helicobacter, while Buddhists carry a mix of European and East Asian bugs.

They might be neighbors, but that don’t mean they’re friends.

15 thoughts on “The Bugs Tell The Story

  1. you know, buddhists in ladakh always complain that muslims convert their women by marrying them. how come the baltis don’t have east asian pathogens? conversely, the fact that ladakhis have “european” bacteria makes you go hhhhmmmm….

  2. conversely, the fact that ladakhis have “european” bacteria makes you go hhhhmmmm….

    This gives a new meaning to “European colonization.”

  3. Maybe they can convert them by marriage, but cannot persuade them to cook, or conversely, are unwilling to eat their food….

    If groups can be so resistant to each other’s bacteria, it should be no surprise how resistant they can be to each other’s ideas.

  4. interesting article.. love the nobel prize month to see who will win…

    during my 2nd year of medical school, my pharmacology professor, louis ignarro won it… it was awesome to have him as my professor the year he won it..all for nitrous oxide (helps with viagra)… too damn funny!

    p.s. just random trivia… for what subject matter does the nobel not give a prize out for and why? come on mutinees… think away ;)

  5. That would be mathematics. There have been myriads of ‘reasons’ historically, ranging from “So and so mathematician ran away with Nobel’s non-existent wife” to “Nobel never thought of mathematics when he set up his endowment”. If you are interested, you can find more info here.

  6. I knew it was math, but as to the why… probably because there’s no sense in giving a prize for solving “x” when “x” is different every time…

    but don’t mind me; I’m desi (so good at math) but a dancer (I hate math)

  7. I’m desi (so good at math) but a dancer (I hate math)

    That’s interesting; people normally enjoy the things they’re good at (and are good at the things they enjoy).

    Unless you’re just saying you prefer perfecting your latest dance move to out-jhatka Shilpa Shetty rather than tearing your hair out trying to solve the Frankenburger trigonomial samosa hypotenuse theorem, which does make more sense….

  8. DesiDamsel,

    “Innit” ? Did you just say “innit” ?!

    Aha, the plan is working….We’ll de-yankify you yet ;)

    [Roguish-but-charming grin that you know you just can't resist]

  9. Roguish-but-charming grin that you know you just can’t resist]

    Jai my boy I think you’ll find that’s MY department and you forgot to mention my impressive moustache.

    No wonder the Balti house has become so widespread its just a plot to spread Helicobacter pylori.

  10. LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS ! UNCLEJI IS BACK !!

    Good to have you back on SM, sir. I noticed you’ve been moonlighting on Pickled Politics recently. I’ve been doing a bit of moonlighting myself, on Sikhnet as you may know.

    Jai my boy I think you’ll find that’s MY department and you forgot to mention my impressive moustache.

    Apologies for stepping on your turf. How can I possibly compete with someone who has over 50 years’ worth of ladykilling experience across 4 continents ?

  11. My favorite part about this particular Nobel story is that Warren actually drank a sample of H. Pylori himself to prove that it causes ulcers. Now, that is dedication to a cause. ;)