Scientists Name Fungus-Killing Bacteria After Keanu Reeves, Actor Calls It "Surreal"
"Deadly like Keanu Reeves" now has a new meaning. The actor, of course, is known for portraying energetic and impactful roles such as the titular character in the John Wick series and Neo in The Matrix. So, it's no surprise that a few scientists in Germany felt they had to name a highly-effective fungi-killing bacteria after the Constantine actor. "The lipopeptides kill so efficiently that we named them after Keanu Reeves because he, too, is extremely deadly in his roles," Sebastian Götze, a researcher with Germany's Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology, shared in a news release on Monday.
Keanumycins, crafted from bacteria of the genus Pseudomonas, target a fungal plant pest dubbed Botrytis cinerea, which causes a gray mold rot that destroys harvests. Botrytis cinerea infects over 200 fruit and vegetable species and is also one of many problem fungi that have become increasingly resistant to existing chemical pesticides as well as — perhaps most ominously — pharmaceuticals. "Many human-pathogenic fungi are now resistant to antimycotics (antifungal) – partly because they are used in large quantities in agricultural fields," Götze added in the statement.
The discovery of Keanumycins could be a valuable new tool against fungi that have grown resistant to antifungals that are used in large quantities in agricultural fields, the researchers say.
What do Keanu Reeves and #NaturalProducts produced by bacteria🦠have in common?— Leibniz-HKI (@LeibnizHKI) February 6, 2023
They're both deadly to their enemies. That's why researchers named the toxins they discovered keanumycins. They could be used as #fungicides:https://t.co/ITyvIcfTkB@PStallforth @UniJena @FH_Erfurt
According to People, Reeves was asked what he thought about having a deadly molecule named after him when he took to a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread to answer questions from his fans during the weekend. A user, u/mrweb06, asked the 58-year-old actor, "Researchers from Germany found a compound naturally produced by some type of bacteria that is so effective at killing fungi, they named it after you: keanumycins. What are your thoughts about that?" Reeves joked: "They should've called it John Wick ... but that's pretty cool ... and surreal for me. But thanks, scientist people! Good luck, and thank you for helping us."
The findings were recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. “This study documents another exciting means by which microbes have evolved to compete with and fight other organisms,” Dr. Matt Nelsen, a researcher from Chicago’s Field Museum, told CNN. “Previous efforts have sought to exploit such natural products for human use to combat animal and plant pathogens. However, over time, many pathogenic organisms — including fungi — have evolved resistance to the chemicals we use to battle them." The researchers say that because of this we need to find a new way to ‘outsmart’ or ‘one-up’ them.
And there might even be applications to help people. The natural product is not highly toxic for human cells and is already effective against fungi in very low concentrations, according to the institute. Keanumycin, they say, is a good candidate for the pharmaceutical development of new antifungals.