A Tale of 3 Mummies

A Microbiome Analysis of Life in the Peruvian Andes 1,000 Years Ago


Abstract: The natural mummification process is a rare and unique process resulting from low temperatures and oxygen levels, and dry weather conditions. In the present study, we characterized the gut microbiome of three pre-Columbian Andean mummies using 16S rRNA gene high-throughput sequencing and metagenomics to understand the preservation and evolution of commensal and pathogenic microorganisms, antimicrobial resistance genes, diet, and the metabolic processes during the natural mummification of the human gut.

Key Points:

  • 16S rRNA gene high-throughput sequencing and metagenomics can be used to understand changes to the human microbiome
  • Evaluation of microbial populations from mummified remains can provide valuable insight into the medical and cultural aspects of ancient people
  • Ancient DNA must be suitable for investigation and should be evaluated through damage analysis studies
  • Quality control of the metagenome analysis process is key to ALL studies. It is particularly important in ancient DNA studies to ensure that the results are reflective of the actual sample, not an artifact of DNA extraction, PCR, sequencing, and/or analysis


Raul Cano

Raul Cano, Ph.D.,
Director, Microbiome Research, ATCC-CTM and Professor Emeritus, California Polytechnic State University

Raul Cano, Ph.D., is a Professor Emeritus at California Polytechnic State University and the Director, Microbiome Research at the ATCC Center for Translational Microbiology (ATCC-CTM). He has extensive experience in the fields of microbial ecology, bioremediation, metagenomics, clinical microbiology, and microbiome research. Dr. Cano was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and has received several awards for his outstanding teaching skills, including the 1997 Carski Foundation Distinguished Teacher Award.