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Keanu Reeves now bears his name on fungus-killing chemicals


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It’s not every day that compounds effective against fungus are discovered, so the German researchers knew their recent discovery needed a special name. Identifying and testing three natural compounds that have proven deadly to fungi, they were so impressed they named the chemicals after actor Keanu Reeves, a nod to how he eliminates villains in films such as “John Wick” and “The Matrix”.

The potential treatment for fungi comes at a time when organisms are becoming increasingly resistant to known antifungals, according to study co-author Sebastian Götze, a researcher at Germany’s Leibniz Institute for Natural Products Research and infection biology. Not only are the newly named microbes effective against plants, but the researchers found that the compounds – molecules commonly found in bacteria called lipopeptides – were also an effective treatment for human fungal infections.

The study was published recently in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

“Lipopeptides kill so effectively that we named them after Keanu Reeves because he too is extremely deadly in his roles,” Götze said in a statement.

“We have an anti-infective crisis. … Many human pathogenic fungi are now resistant to antifungals (antifungals) – partly because they are used in large quantities in agricultural fields.

Called “keanumycins,” the newly discovered antimicrobial compounds are a natural byproduct of the Pseudomonas bacteria that are commonly found in soil and water. Researchers came across the compounds when studying Pseudomonas for their effectiveness against predatory amoebae.

Scientists know that “many of these bacterial species (Pseudomonas) are highly toxic to amoebae, which feed on the bacteria,” said study lead author Pierre Stallforth, head of the paleobiotechnology department at the Leibniz Institute. , in a press release. Stallforth and his fellow researchers wanted to explore the bacteria’s effectiveness against fungi, which have a cell structure similar to that of amoebas, according to the study.

The researchers first tested keanumycins A, B and C on a hydrangea that had been infected with Botrytis cinerea, a plant pest best known as a trigger for gray rot. The fungus commonly infects certain fruits and vegetables and causes collateral damage to crops.

The compounds are biodegradable, according to the study, and could provide an environmentally friendly alternative to pesticides in efforts to save the food supply.

Additional testing has also shown keanumycins to be effective against Candida albicans, a naturally occurring yeast that is commonly found in the human microbiome but can overgrow and develop into a serious infection.

Fungal infections have been a hot topic recently due to HBO’s “The Last of Us” and, as the show suggests, the conditions can be difficult to treat but not impossible. (HBO, like CNN, is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.) Testing of keanumycins has shown that the compounds are not particularly harmful and toxic to human cells, a problem often encountered in the development of antifungal treatments since cells fungi share the same properties with animal cells.

“This study documents another exciting way in which microbes have evolved to compete and fight other organisms,” said Dr. Matt Nelsen, a researcher at the Field Museum in Chicago, in an email.

“Previous efforts have sought to harness these natural products for human use to combat animal and plant pathogens,” Nelsen added. “However, over time, many disease-causing organisms – including fungi – have developed resistance to the chemicals we use to fight them. Therefore, we have to find a new way to “outsmart” or “overcome” them.

According to the study, keanumycins are “good candidate structures for the development of antifungal drugs”, and could be a new treatment option in an area where they are “desperately needed”. The researchers said they will perform further tests on the compounds.

“One of the ways organisms engage in this battle (competition with other organisms) is through the synthesis of chemicals that can inhibit growth or kill other organisms,” Nelsen said. With further research, it will be exciting to understand how widespread keanumycins are, Nelsen added, and to see how many other species in the genus Pseudomonas can produce these compounds.

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