Turbatrix aceti (Vinegar eels, Vinegar nematode) are free-living nematodes that feed on the microbial culture, called mother of vinegar used to create vinegar, and may be found in unfiltered vinegar. Vinegar eels are often given to fry (baby fish) as a live food, like microworms.
Although they are harmless and non-parasitic, leaving eels in vinegar is considered objectionable in the United States and is not permitted in vinegar destined for American consumers. Manufacturers normally filter and pasteurize their product prior to bottling, destroying the live bacterial and yeast culture that these nematodes require for sustenance. They are usually about 2mm long and feed on the bacteria from apples.
Experiments with T. aceti have been performed to understand the cause of aging. DNA damage accumulates when the rate of DNA damage occurrence exceeds the rate of DNA repair. Accumulation of DNA damage leads to a decline in gene expression. Targovnick et al. measured the capacity of young and old T. aceti to carry out excision repair of DNA damages after UV irradiation. They found a consistent decline in DNA excision repair capacity with age in the nematode. A second report by Targovnick et al. also measured the ability to excise thymine glycol (a type of oxidative DNA damage) in young and old nematodes after exposure to ionizing radiation. They observed that the old nematodes were strikingly less able to carry out this type of DNA repair than young nematodes. These experiments suggest that a decline in DNA repair capability and consequent increase in unrepaired DNA damage occurs with age and are consistent with the DNA damage theory of aging.
- FDA: Sec. 525.825 Vinegar, Definitions - Adulteration with Vinegar Eels (CPG 7109.22)
- Targovnik HS, Locher SE, Hart TF, Hariharan PV (September 1984). "Age-related changes in the excision repair capacity of Turbatrix aceti". Mech. Ageing Dev. 27 (1): 73–81. PMID 6492888.
- Targovnik HS, Locher SE, Hariharan PV (March 1985). "Age associated alteration in DNA damage and repair capacity in Turbatrix aceti exposed to ionizing radiation". Int. J. Radiat. Biol. Relat. Stud. Phys. Chem. Med. 47 (3): 255–60. PMID 3872278.
- Bernstein H, Payne CM, Bernstein C, Garewal H, Dvorak K (2008). Cancer and aging as consequences of un-repaired DNA damage. In: New Research on DNA Damages (Editors: Honoka Kimura and Aoi Suzuki) Nova Science Publishers, Inc., New York, Chapter 1, pp. 1-47. open access, but read only https://www.novapublishers.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=43247 ISBN 978-1604565812