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Scientists named a fungicide after Keanu Reeves because it's extremely effective at killing — just like his characters

By Hannah Getahun,

Keanu Reeves, left. A common fungus, right.
  • Scientists discovered a compound in Pseudomonas bacteria that can effectively kill certain fungi.
  • German researchers named the fungus killer after the actor Keanu Reeves.
  • The study authors say the compounds could be used to effectively treat both crops and humans.

Like John Wick, new compounds discovered by scientists are effective killers. But instead of killing bad guys, they kill fungi.

Researchers at the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology in Germany found certain bacteria naturally contained compounds effective at killing fungi that affect plants and humans. The scientists named them keanumycins A, B, and C — after the actor Keanu Reeves.

The three keanumycins — lipopeptides in bacteria of the Pseudomonas genus, commonly found in soil and water — were isolated by scientists, who tested their deadly properties. They found the compounds got rid of amoebas and fungi.

"The lipopeptides kill so efficiently that we named them after Keanu Reeves because he, too, is extremely deadly in his roles," the study's main author, Sebastian Götze, said in a press release . The scientists released their findings in the Journal of the American Chemical Society in January .

The keanumycins were most effective at killing Botrytis cinerea — a fungus that produces gray mold rot. The fungus ruins crops like strawberries and wine grapes , and farmers usually use chemical fungicides to prevent it from growing .

The study authors are testing the theory that a fungicide containing keanumycins could kill fungus on crops and provide a biodegradable option that won't leave chemicals in the soil or on fruit.

The scientists also say it can help with human fungal infections that are becoming more resistant to antifungal treatments. The study authors say keanumycins are effective at treating the human-pathogenic fungus responsible for yeast infections and are not toxic to humans.

"We have a crisis in anti-infectives," Götze said in the release. "Many human-pathogenic fungi are now resistant to antimycotics — partly because they are used in large quantities in agricultural fields."

So far, 2023 has seen the names of several significant scientific discoveries inspired by celebrities.

Recently, biologists in Ecuador found a mystical stream frog and named it after the fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien .

Another pair of biologists discovered five new species of snakes in Central and South America. The actor Leonardo DiCaprio named one of them — an orange-eyed, snail-eating snake that produces a "musky and distasteful odor"— after his mother, Irmelin Indenbirken.

Correction: March 9, 2023 — An earlier version of this story misstated why scientists view keanumycins as a promising antifungal treatment. The compounds were touted as an alternative to human fungal infections that are becoming more resistant to antifungal treatments, not less resistant.

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