Bacteria genus named for Baumanns

Add a new namesake to the legacy of microbiologists Paul and Linda Baumann, who have a son from their marriage and a series of scientific discoveries from their long-time research collaboration. 

A newly described genus of bacteria has been named after the Baumanns for their pioneering research on bacteria that live inside the cells of sap-sucking insects. Biologists at the University of Arizona found the new genus and species, Candidatus Baumannia cicadellinicola, inside the cells of the glassy-winged sharpshooter, which threatens grapes and other crops by spreading the bacterial Pierce’s disease.

The Baumanns were the first to use DNA sequencing and other genetic techniques to characterize such microorganisms, which are called endosymbionts and produce essential nutrients missing from the sap-suckers’ diet.

“These approaches have resulted in dramatic progress in our understanding of this vast but little known category of organisms,” University of Arizona biologist Nancy Moran and colleagues wrote in the February issue of the journal Environmental Microbiology.

Paul Baumann said he and his wife were pleasantly surprised by the honor from Moran, a research collaborator for more than a decade. 

Their association began after Moran published a paper in 1989 outlining evidence that Asian and American lines of aphids split more than 48 million years ago. That interested the Baumanns because it suggested an evolutionary timeline for divergence of the endosymbionts inside those aphids.

Paul Baumann said the discovery by Moran’s team of the new bacteria C. baumannia could offer new leads for controlling the glassy-winged sharpshooter and Pierce’s disease, which is fatal to grapevines, though much research is still needed.

For Paul and Linda Baumann, this is the third microorganism to bear their name. Two other bacteria have the species name “baumannii.” But this is the first genus named after them.

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