Keanu Reeves’ last role? Bacterial compound killing fungus.
After discovering that certain bacterial compounds kill fungi, scientists at a German research institute remembered the deadly action of a Hollywood proportion: in particular, Keanu Reeves in his starring role in the thriller franchise “John Wick”.
The compounds, which the researchers called “keanumycins,” wiped out fungi harmful to plants and humans with deadly precision.
“Keanu Reeves plays many iconic roles in which he is extremely effective at ‘inactivating’ his enemies. Keanumycins do the same with fungi,” said Dr Pierre Stallforth, one of the researchers and professor of paleobiotechnology at the Leibniz Institute for Natural Products Research and Infection Biology in Jena, Germany.
A publicist for Mr. Reeves did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Entertainment company Lionsgate, the distributor of the “John Wick” films, held a question-and-answer forum on Reddit with Mr. Reeves over the weekend, in which he described his reaction to the discovery that bears his name.
“They should have called him John Wick,” he said. “But it’s pretty cool…and surreal to me.” But thank you, scientists! Good luck and thank you for helping us.
Bacterial compounds are effective against fungal plant diseases and fungi that afflict humans, according to results published in The Journal of the American Chemical Society in January.
“Keanumycins create holes in the surface of the pathogen and it ‘bleeds’ to death,” said study lead author Sebastian Götze, a postdoctoral fellow in paleobiotechnology at the Leibniz Institute.
“Like Keanu Reeves in his many roles as a skilled killer, the newly discovered molecules can also very effectively, at low concentrations, kill different human fungal pathogens, by riddled them with holes,” he said. In the latest installment of “John Wick”, Mr. Reeves plays a retired hitman who returns to hunt his opponents.
The authors prepared a broth of bacteria that produce keanumycin and applied it to a hydrangea plant covered in the fungus Botrytis cinerea, a common plague among greenhouse crops like tomatoes and strawberries.
They found that the bacteria filled the fungus with holes, freeing the hydrangea from the plague and proving that keanumycins work effectively against a plant pest that causes botrytis and results in substantial crop losses each year.
The compounds also work against Candida albicans, a naturally occurring fungus in the human body whose overproduction can cause infection.
A natural, biodegradable agent like keanumycins could be an important alternative to pesticides and antibiotics amid a “crisis in anti-infectives,” according to Dr. Götze, or drugs that prevent or treat infections. Many fungi are now resistant to drugs and substances that have been used to kill them in the past.
“Resistance against most drugs used to treat infectious diseases is spreading around the world,” Dr Götze said.
“If fungal plant pathogens are resistant to fungicides, your agricultural production decreases, which can lead to famine in extreme cases,” he added.
The researchers’ findings suggest microbial evolution to combat predatory pathogens, said Dr. Matthew Nelsen, a research scientist at the Field Museum in Chicago who was not involved in the study.
“Previous efforts have sought to harness these natural products for human use to combat animal and plant pathogens. However, over time, many disease-causing organisms – including fungi – have developed resistance to the chemicals we we use to fight them,” Dr. Nelsen said. “Therefore, we need to find a new way to outwit or outmaneuver them.”