A Most Excellent Way to Inhibit Pathogenic Fungi

How do you stop a fungi? With a deadly guy

Thanks to the new HBO series “The Last of Us,” there’s been a lot of talk about the upcoming fungi-pocalypse, as the show depicts the real-life “zombie fungus” Cordyceps turning humans into, you know, zombies.

No need to worry, ladies and gentleman, because science has discovered a way to turn back the fungal horde. A heroic, and environmentally friendly, alternative to chemical pesticides “in the fight against resistant fungi [that] are now resistant to antimycotics – partly because they are used in large quantities in agricultural fields,” investigators at the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology in Jena, Germany, said in a written statement.

We are, of course, talking about Keanu Reeves. Wait a second. He’s not even in “The Last of Us.” Sorry folks, we are really being told that our champion in the inevitable fungal pandemic really is movie star Keanu Reeves. Sort of. It’s actually keanumycin, a substance produced by bacteria of the genus Pseudomonas.

Really? Keanumycin? “The lipopeptides kill so efficiently that we named them after Keanu Reeves because he, too, is extremely deadly in his roles,” lead author Sebastian Götze, PhD, explained.

Dr. Götze and his associates had been working with pseudomonads for quite a while before they were able to isolate the toxins responsible for their ability to kill amoebae, which resemble fungi in some characteristics. When then finally tried the keanumycin against gray mold rot on hydrangea leaves, the intensely contemplative star of “The Matrix” and “John Wick” – sorry, wrong Keanu – the bacterial derivative significantly inhibited growth of the fungus, they said.

Additional testing has shown that keanumycin is not highly toxic to human cells and is effective against fungi such as Candida albicans in very low concentrations, which makes it a good candidate for future pharmaceutical development.

To that news there can be only one response from the substance’s namesake.

A pound of flesh, dearly bought, and Massachusetts will have it

We should all have more Shakespeare in our lives. Yeah, yeah, Shakespeare is meant to be played, not read, and it can be a struggle to herd teenagers through the Bard’s interesting and bloody tragedies, but even a perfunctory reading of “The Merchant of Venice” would hopefully have prevented the dystopian nightmare Massachusetts has presented us with today.

The United States has a massive shortage of donor organs. This is an unfortunate truth. So, to combat this issue, a pair of Massachusetts congresspeople have proposed HD 3822, which would allow prisoners to donate organs and/or bone marrow (a pound of flesh, so to speak) in exchange for up to a year in reduced prison time. Yes, that’s right. Give up pieces of yourself and the state of Massachusetts will deign to reduce your long prison sentence.

Fortunately, the bill will likely never be passed and it’s probably illegal anyway. A federal law from 1984 (how’s that for a coincidence) prevents people from donating organs for use in human transplantation in exchange for “valuable consideration.” In other words, you can’t sell your organs for profit, and in this case, reducing prison time would probably count as valuable consideration in the eyes of the courts.

Oh, and in case you’ve never read Merchant of Venice, Shylock, the character looking for the pound of flesh as payment for a debt? He’s the villain. In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that anyone looking to extract payment from human dismemberment is probably the bad guy of the story. Apparently that wasn’t clear.

High fat, bye parasites

Fat. Fat. Fat. Seems like everyone is trying to avoid it these days, but fat may be good thing when it comes to weaseling out a parasite.

The parasite in this case is the whipworm, aka Trichuris trichiura. You can find this guy in the intestines of millions of people, where it causes long-lasting infections. Yikes … Researchers have found that the plan of attack to get rid of this invasive species is to boost the immune system, but instead of vitamin C and zinc it’s fat they’re pumping in. Yes, fat.

The developing countries with poor sewage that are at the highest risk for contracting parasites such as this also are among those where people ingest cheaper diets that are generally higher in fat. The investigators were interested to see how a high-fat diet would affect immune responses to the whipworms.

And, as with almost everything else, the researchers turned to mice, which were introduced to a closely related species, Trichuris muris.

A high-fat diet, rather than obesity itself, increases a molecule on T-helper cells called ST2, and this allows an increased T-helper 2 response, effectively giving eviction notices to the parasites in the intestinal lining.

To say the least, the researchers were surprised since “high-fat diets are mostly associated with increased pathology during disease,” said senior author Richard Grencis, PhD, of the University of Manchester (England), who noted that ST2 is not normally triggered with a standard diet in mice but the high-fat diet gave it a boost and an “alternate pathway” out.

Now before you start ordering extra-large fries at the drive-through to keep the whipworms away, the researchers added that they “have previously published that weight loss can aid the expulsion of a different gut parasite worm.” Figures.

Once again, though, signs are pointing to the gut for improved health.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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