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Iceman-examination-300x199New findings while researching the Otzi Iceman shows evidence he suffered from periodontal disease!

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Non-Human DNA Discovered During Biopsy Of Ötzi The Iceman

July 16, 2014 | by Janet Fang

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Now, a team led by Frank Maixner of EURAC Research in Italy reanalyzed the metagenomic data of the Iceman’s genomic survey (pictured below). They found evidence of a pathogen in the tissue biopsy. Called Treponema denticola, this opportunistic oral pathogen is involved in the development of periodontal (or gum) disease. Its sizeable presence was especially surprising: The pathogen had to have been distributed via the bloodstream from the mouth to the hip bone.



“This ‘non-human’ DNA mostly derives from bacteria normally living on and within our body. Only the interplay between certain bacteria or an imbalance within this bacterial community might cause certain diseases,” study coauthor Thomas Rattei from the University of Vienna explains in a news release “It is highly important to reconstruct and understand the bacterial community composition by analyzing this DNA mixture.”

According to the researchers, the bacteria didn’t colonize the body after death; they were part of Ötzi’s “commensal oral microflora” when he was alive. These findings confirm a CT-based diagnosis published last year showing that the Iceman suffered from periodontitis, an infection of the ligaments and bones that support teeth. It’s what happens when inflamed gums go unchecked.

The pathogen’s presence was further confirmed when the team analyzed gum tissue biopsy and a mouth swab sample taken from the Iceman. The work was published in PLoS ONE last month.

Gum disease has been linked to many systemic problems like heart disease, diabetes and dementia.  It is crucial for your overall health to stay on top of your oral health.
Risk factors for gum disease include:

  • Smoking.  Need another reason to quit smoking? Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of gum disease. Additionally, smoking can lower the chances for successful treatment.
  • Hormonal changes in girls/women. These changes can make gums more sensitive and make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
  • Diabetes. People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing infections, including gum disease.
  • Other illnesses. Diseases like cancer or AIDS and their treatments can also negatively affect the health of gums.
  • Medications. There are hundreds of prescription and over the counter medications that can reduce the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on the mouth. Without enough saliva, the mouth is vulnerable to infections such as gum disease. And some medicines can cause abnormal overgrowth of the gum tissue; this can make it difficult to keep teeth and gums clean.
  • Genetic susceptibility. Some people are more prone to severe gum disease than others.

Signs you may need to get help:

  • Red, swollen or tender gums or other pain in your mouth
  • Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating hard food
  • Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer than before
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • Pus between your gums and teeth
  • Sores in your mouth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • A change in the fit of partial dentures

If it has been a while since you had a check up, don’t wait until it is too late, find a doctor that understands the link between your mouth and your body and get healthy!


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