What are ‘Keanu Reeves’ molecules that can protect humans and plants against fungi?
Keanu Reeves has fought baddies in Hollywood blockbusters, but now he has a chemical named after him that can destroy fungi. Researchers have discovered that a strong anti-microbial natural product is effective against fungal infections. This anti-microbial substance is named after Reeves.
According to a study published recently in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the compounds, named keanumycins, are efficient against fungi that cause disease in both plants and humans. Notably, there is an urgent need to develop new methods of combating microbial infections due to the rise in antimicrobial resistance.
Fungal infections, along with antibiotic resistance, are a growing concern for human health, not only because of their zombie-like potential but because fungal infections are also a major source of crop losses in hundreds of plant species, according to UK-based science website IFL Science.
The research’s first author Dr Sebastian Götze from the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology said in a statement, “We have a crisis in anti-infectives. Many human-pathogenic fungi are now resistant to antimycotics – partly because they are used in large quantities in agricultural fields.” Researchers in the study have shown that the keanumycins work “effectively” against the plant pest Botrytis cinerea, which triggers grey mould rot in crops, causing immense harvest losses every year.
The study also suggests that the active ingredient in the keanumycin molecules can suppress the growth of fungi that are harmful to human health, such as Candida albicans. Thus, this class of molecules can be an “environmentally friendly alternative” to chemical pesticides. It may also offer an alternative in the fight against drug-resistant fungi. Notably, Canada albicans were recently added to the World Health Organization’s list of “important priority” fungal diseases.
Dr Götze said, “Many human-pathogenic fungi are now resistant to antimycotics (antifungal) – partly because they are used in large quantities in agricultural fields.” As a result, researchers have studied the effects of substances derived from bacteria of the genus Pseudomonas and discovered that many of these bacterial species are highly toxic to amoeba, which feed on bacteria. “Theoretically, the Keanumycin-containing supernatant from Pseudomonas cultures could be used directly for plants,” Dr Gotze said.
Researchers from Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology said that the collection of molecules “kill so efficiently that we named them after Keanu Reeves because he, too, is extremely lethal in his roles,” reported Independent. The name is inspired by Reeves’ iconic portrayal of hitman John Wick.
IFL Science explains that Canada albicans cause thrush, a common infection that frequently affects the mouth, throat, or genitals. It can produce a serious and sometimes deadly systemic infection in some patients, particularly those with compromised immune systems.
According to research published in the National Library of Medicine, fungal infections cause an estimated 1.7 million deaths per year. It has been referred to as “the silent crisis.” With few fungi-specific medications on the market, keanumycin could be an excellent starting point for the creation of new, much-needed treatments, reported IFL Science.