Pimple-Causing Bacteria Named After Frank Zappa

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Researchers this week revealed that they have found a new version of the P. acnes bacteria, an organism responsible for acne in humans. This new type of P acnes has evolved to rely on grapevines for survival.

In an odd twist to the otherwise bland announcement, the discoverers of the bacterium have partly named the discovery after singer-songwriter Frank Zappa. The newly-discovered bacteria is now known as P. Zappae according to research published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

According to the study's authors, the fact that the bacteria is so unusual is why the satirical Zappa was chosen as its namesake. More specifically, the 1979 song "Jewish Princess" was referenced by the authors.

"This bacteria is so unconventional in its behavior, and its new habitat is so unexpected that we thought of Frank Zappa," said Andrea Capisano, lead author of the study, and Omar Rota-Stabelli, co-author of the study. Both are researchers at the Edmund Mach Foundation. "Indeed, at the time we were discovering it, we were both playing a Zappa album in our cars."

P. Zappae was found by researchers during a gene-based microbiome analysis of grapevine stems collected in Northern Italy. The bacteria was found to be colonizing bark tissues in grapevines. Using the genetic research, Capisano and his colleagues were able to trace the origin of P. Zappae to humans. It is believed that P. Zappae was introduced by humans into grapevines around 7,000 years ago through early grafting and pruning practices.

Image courtesy Mark Estabrook/Wikimedia Commons

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