News / Science & Technology

Acne Bacteria Found in Grapevines

FILE - Scientists were surprised to find the grapevines they studied harbored Propionibacterium acnes, a bacterium usually found on human skin and best known for causing acne.
FILE - Scientists were surprised to find the grapevines they studied harbored Propionibacterium acnes, a bacterium usually found on human skin and best known for causing acne.
You may think your teenage acne lasted a long time, but scientists have discovered grapevines have been carrying the bacteria that cause pimples for 7,000 years.

Named for the musical iconoclast Frank Zappa, scientists say it is the first time a bacterium found in humans has been discovered taking up residence all the way across the tree of life in plants.

Molecular biologist Omar Rota-Stabelli at Italy’s Fondazione Edmund Mach and colleagues were studying microbes living inside grapevines.

“There’s plenty of bacteria living inside plants,” he said. “And we know some are good bacteria for the plants. Some others are bad. Our study [aims] to understand what lives inside and if it's giving an advantage or not."

They were surprised to find that all the grapevines they studied harbored Propionibacterium acnes, a bacterium usually found on human skin and best known for causing acne.

The findings are published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution

Bacteria inside plants

P. acnes doesn’t give grapevines acne. At this point, it’s not clear what the bacteria is doing to, or for, the plant.

It’s not that uncommon to find human-associated bacteria on plants. Take, for example, E. coli, which usually inhabits the guts of humans and animals, but can contaminate fruits and vegetables and cause disease.

But those bacteria rarely stay for long. This strain of P. acnes appears to be living, among other places, inside cells in the center of the grapevine, called pith.  And it appears to have lost a critical DNA repair protein, which makes it hard to survive on the outside.

“This bacteria seems perfectly used to staying in the grapevine. It can’t live without [the] grape,” Rota-Stabelli said.

Prehistoric meeting

The scientists determined that the bacteria and the grapevine probably first got together about 7,000 years ago, which “perfectly matched when humans domesticated the grape. So, it really made sense,” he said.

Tending grapevines involves a lot of cutting, he said, opening up a route for the bacteria to move in. 

And pith cells are rich in fatty acids.

“These bacteria probably feed on those fatty acids, as they used to do on our skin,” he said.

When they first discovered P. acnes in their grapevines,

"My impression was, 'that’s contamination from the technician. No way,’” Rota-Stabelli said.

The technician was not especially acne-prone. 

“No, he’s very hairy,” Rota-Stabelli joked.

The Zappa Way

When further tests confirmed it was, in fact, P. acnes, they named it type Zappae, after the virtuoso musician known for such songs as, "Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow" and "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama."

Rota-Stabelli says he and lead author Andrea Campisano are fans. But it’s more than that.

“I think we behaved in a Frank Zappa way,” he said. Instead of assuming the samples were contaminated, “we thought in a different way and found something very unexpected.”

The next step is to look inside other plants to see if P. Zappae turns up in more unexpected places.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Daikanyama, TKO
February 22, 2014 8:38 PM
What is the matter you find acne bacteria in grapevines ?
What is good and bad for us ?
They mentioned that the bacteria and the grapevine got together about 7000 years ago when humans domesticated the grape, but so what?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid