Scientists Named An Acne-Causing Bacterium After Frank Zappa

Well, what the hell do I wash my face with to get rid of that?
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Scientists in Italy have discovered a new form of bacteria that they’re calling P. Zappae, in honor of the famous rock singer. Even weirder? While it is a type of bacteria known to cause acne in humans, they actually found it in a vineyard. Great, now even our wine has to go through puberty.

Kidding aside, this type of pathogen transfer is incredibly unusual to find on something that isn’t a person’s face. And when we say incredibly unusual, we literally mean that we’ve never seen anything like it before. Microbiologist Andrea Campisano, who authored the study of this bacteria, told the LA Times, “This is the first time it’s been found that a microorganism can switch from a human to a plant.”

Campisano theorizes that it first made that switch about 7,000 years ago, probably around the time that humans first began to cultivate wine plants in the first place. It doesn’t harm the plants in any way; instead it probably just eats the fatty acids out of the plant cells, much in the same way that it would eat those types of acids in human cells.

But why name it after Zappa? “This bacteria is so unconventional in its behavior, and its new habitat is so unexpected that we thought of Frank Zappa. Indeed, at the time we were discovering it, we were both playing a Zappa album in our cars,” Campisano and co-author Omar Rota-Stabelli said. Then there’s also the great “Jewish Princess” reference you get out of it (remember that line about sand-blasted zits?) And, finally, zappa is also the Italian word for a hoe — the garden kind, not the other kind — so calling it that is a nice nod to the farmers that introduced the bacteria to the wine plants in the first place.

And don’t worry, fellow acne-prone friends: it can’t grow on human skin anymore, so you’re not going to get pimples from drinking wine. Unless, I don’t know, you wash your face with it or something. I’m guessing that’s probably not a good idea.

(via Eurekalert, image via Heinrich Klaffs)

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