The Fungus-Killing Compound Scientists Have Named After Keanu Reeves

After the release of HBO Max's 2023 TV series adaptation of the hit video game "The Last of Us," about a fungal pandemic-caused zombie apocalypse, some wondered if deadly fungus could be the next environmental issue to worry about. As CNN points out, human fungus outbreaks of the future are unlikely to look like the Cordyceps from "The Last of Us" game and series. As the Earth's climate warms, though, and as more and more fungal strains grow resistant to anti-fungal medications, human fungus-caused illness has worsened.

Adding to the human health implication, fungal outbreaks also threaten the world's food supply, according to an article published in Nature Food. To address this danger, science has discovered a fungus-fighting byproduct of certain bacteria with the potential to fight both plant- and human-based fungal disease, as reports. When it came to naming the new discovery capable of such death-defying work, scientists turned to one of Hollywood's most reliable and recognizable action stars: Keanu Reeves, as The Byte writes.

The fungi-fighting compound is produced by Pseudomonas

As goes on to note, this fungal-fighting compound was discovered by researchers at the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology in Germany. Their findings were published in a study via the Journal of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The substance, produced naturally by bacteria belonging to the Pseudomonas genus, is effective against both plant and human fungal infection. Better yet, since it's all-natural, it's an eco-friendly alternative to chemical pesticides, as The Byte writes.

Where this byproduct has been most effective is against Botrytis cinerea, which causes gray mold rot in harvests (pictured). It's also shown results against fungi dangerous to humans, such as Candida albicans — a type of yeast causing thrush in humans — among other negative health consequences (via Cleveland Clinic). On the importance of the discovery, study author Sebastian Götze said (via, "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 called these byproducts keanumycins

The Pseudomona fungus-fighting byproduct was so effective in killing fungal outbreaks that when it came time to name it, they chose "keanumycin" in honor of Keanu Reeves, the action star of the action-packed "John Wick" franchise and "The Matrix" series (via On the decision to call their discovery keanumycin, Leibniz Institute researcher Sebastian Götze said the group of lipopeptides with soap-like qualities kills "so efficiently that we named them after Keanu Reeves because he, too, is extremely deadly in his roles."

As mentioned, these all-natural products are biodegradable and safe to apply directly to plants. "In addition," Götze added, "we tested the isolated substance against various fungi that infect humans," with encouraging signs that keanumycins could help fight fungal infections in people, too, and just in time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 75,000 people were hospitalized with fungal infections in 2014, and around 7,000 people died in 2021 — though the true number is likely much higher, as the CDC goes on to point out.