Grapevine bacteria named after Frank Zappa

A bacteria known for causing human acne, but which now lives on grape vines, has been discovered by Italian scientists and named after the late musician Frank Zappa.

Frank ZappaPropionibacterium acnes, a formerly pimple-causing bacterium, has apparently moved from human skin to the bark of grape vines, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

Italian scientists discovered the bacterium living in the bark of a grape vine noticing that its was the same bacteria that causes human acne, suggesting a unique transfer of a human bacteria to a plant.

Andrea Campisano, microbiologist of the Edmund Mach Foundation in San Michele all’Adige, Italy, and lead author of the study published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, said: “This is the first time it’s been found that a microorganism can switch from a human to a plant.”

Co-author Omar Rota-Stabelli, an evolutionary microbiologist at the foundation, used a “molecular clock” analysis, based on rates of DNA mutation, to estimate when the newly named P. acnes Zappae might have made its leap from finger to vine.

He said: “It turns out that the most probable date is about 7,000 years ago, which is when we estimate that we started cultivating grape vines.”

“Probably as soon as humans started to touch this plant, this bug that used to live on human skin found a very hospitable environment inside the cells of the grape vine.”

Campisano said “With grapevines, you cut a piece of vine and let it root in the soil. People would take a piece and touch it with their hands, and possibly they would have infected the vines.”

The bacterium does not appear to harm the grape vines.

Researchers believe it simply changed its appetite from human fatty acids to those of plant cells, and has adapted so well it now cannot go back to living on human skin, according to the study.

“It has extensively restructured its genome and DNA and it’s now unable to go back to its earlier, human-associated form,” said Campisano.

The name came from a Zappa quote Campisano, a Zappa fan, had used as the screensaver on his computer.

Gail Zappa, Zappa’s second wife, 69, told USA Today that she loved the idea of Zappa’s name being attached to the discovery.

“For me this is just an extension of Frank’s means of gluing things together, making sense of the universe. It’s strictly conceptual continuity,” she said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that comments are subject to our posting guidelines in accordance with the Defamation Act 2013. Posts containing swear words, discrimination, offensive language and libellous or defamatory comments will not be approved.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Awards Wine Checker

Decanter
Paddock Wood, Kent, GB

Customer Service Advisor

Amathus Drinks
Park Royal, London, UK

Sales Manager

James Eadie Ltd
London, UK

Wine Ambassador Role

Ramón Bilbao UK
London, UK

Fine Wine Logistics Coordinator

IG Wines
London, UK

Sales Manager

Top Selection
London, UK

Assistant Retail Manager

The Whisky Exchange
London, UK

Marketing Manager

Ellis Wines
Hanworth, Middx, GB

Commercial Analyst

ATOM Group
Tunbridge Wells, UK

Customer Service Executive

Marussia Beverages
Marylebone, London, UK

The World Bulk Wine Exhibition

Amsterdam,Netherlands
20th Nov 2017

The Global Spirits Masters Lunch

London,United Kingdom
1st Dec 2017

International Bulk Wine and Spirits Show

London,United Kingdom
26th Feb 2018
Click to view more

Champagne Masters 2017

The only Champagne blind tasting in the UK, the competition will reward the best wines in the following categories:

The Global Rosé Masters 2017

With wines from the palest of pink to almost ruby red, bone dry to almost cloyingly sweet, reductively handled to barrel-aged, as well as gently spritzy to fully sparkling.

Click to view more