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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    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.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.