5,700-year-old whole genome extracted from the ancient chewing gum

  • A 5,700-year-old human genome and oral microbiome were extracted from the chewed pitch, an artifact other than bones during archaeological excavations at Syltholm, east of Rødbyhavn in southern Denmark.
  • A gummy substance made from the bark birch (Betula pendula) which was needed to be chewed into glue in the Palaeolithic times and also have been used as a remedy for toothache, as an antiseptic & as chewing gum at leisure.
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) was used as the chemical analytic tool to prove that Betula pendula constituted most of the chewed pitch.
  • Many different bacterial species that are characteristic of an oral microbiome were extracted that were commercials & opportunistic microbes of the mouth and GIT such as Epstein-Barr Virus, Neisseria subflava, Rothia mucilaginosa & bacteriae of the red complex (Porphyromonas gingivalis, Tannerella forsythia, and Treponema denticola).
  • Ancient human genomic information preserved provides the information on genetic ancestry, phenotype, health status, and even subsistence and the microbial genomic information provides information on the composition and the evolution of oral microbiome and important human pathogens.

Do you want to read more about this topic?

  1. Jensen, T.Z.T., Niemann, J., Iversen, K.H. et al. A 5700-year-old human genome and the oral microbiome from chewed birch pitch. Nat Commun 10, 5520 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41467-019-13549-9, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-13549-9

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