Zappa lives on— in a mi­crobe’s name

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS | ASIDES & INSIDES -

T he late Frank Zappa blazed a lot of trails in his day. But now the rock star who ex­per­i­mented wit†h jazz, clas­si­cal mu­sic and per­for­mance art has a new ac­co­lade. And it seems only fit­ting that the name­sake is a bit off-beat, like the icon­o­clas­tic mu­si­cian him­self.

A bac­terium has been named P. ac­nes Zap­pae by the sci­en­tists who dis­cov­ered that the pim­ple-caus­ing P. ac­nes has mu­tated and is found in grape vines, where it doesn’t ap­pear to cause any dam­age. The re­search was pub­lished last week in the jour­nal Molec­u­lar Bi­ol­ogy and Evo­lu­tion.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the sci­en­tists—An­drea Camp­isano and Omar Rota-Sta­belli of the Ed­mund Mach Foun­da­tion in Italy—are huge Zappa fans. “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,” the au­thors said.

Zappa, whose ca­reer was punc­tu­ated with hits such as “Don’t Eat the Yel­low Snow” and “Dancin’ Fool,” once wrote of “sand-blasted zits” in his satir­i­cal song “Jewish Princess.”

“This is the first time it’s been found that a mi­cro-or­gan­ism can switch from a hu­man to a plant,” mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gist Camp­isano told the Los Angeles Times.

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


Zappa, seated at cen­ter and shown with his band the Moth­ers of In­ven­tion, will now live on in the an­nals of sci­ence as well as mu­sic.

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