The drug is capable of attacking one of the three most dangerous superbugs, according to the researchers.
Scientists have used artificial intelligence (AI) to develop a new antibiotic that can kill a deadly species of superbug.
The technology helped sift through a list of thousands of potential chemical compounds, narrowing them down to a few that could be tested in a lab.
The result was a powerful experimental antibiotic called abaucin, which will need to undergo further testing before it can be used.
Researchers from Canada and the United States say artificial intelligence has the power to dramatically accelerate drug discovery.
It is the latest example of how AI tools can be a revolutionary force in science and medicine.
To stop superbugs
Antibiotics kill bacteria. But there has been a shortage of new drugs for decades, and bacteria are becoming more difficult to treat as they develop resistance to the antibiotics we have available.
It is estimated that more than one million people die each year from infections resistant to antibiotic treatment.
The researchers focused on one of the most annoying species of bacteria: the Acinetobacter baumanniiwhich can infect wounds and cause pneumonia.
You may not have heard of it, but it’s one of three superbugs that the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified as a “critical” threat.
It is often able to bypass multiple antibiotics and is a problem in hospitals and nursing homes, where it can survive on medical surfaces and equipment.
Jonathan Stokes, of McMaster University in Canada, describes the bacterium as “public enemy number one”, as it is “very common” to find cases where it is “resistant to almost all antibiotics”.
To find a new antibiotic, researchers first had to train artificial intelligence.
They took thousands of drugs whose exact chemical structure was known and manually tested them in the Acinetobacter baumannii to see which one might slow it down or kill it.
That information was fed to the AI so it could learn the chemical characteristics of drugs that could attack pesky bacteria.
The AI then analyzed a list of 6,680 compounds whose effectiveness was unknown. The findings – published in the scientific journal Nature Chemical Biology – showed it took the technology an hour and a half to produce a shortlist of finalists.
Researchers tested 240 of them in the lab and found nine potential antibiotics. One of them was the incredibly powerful abaucine.
Laboratory experiments showed that this antibiotic could heal infected wounds in mice and was able to kill samples of A. baumannii of patients.
“This is where the work begins,” says Stokes.
The next step is to perfect the drug in the laboratory and then carry out clinical trials. It expects the first AI-generated antibiotics to be available for prescription by 2030.
Interestingly, this experimental antibiotic had no effect on other species of bacteria, only working against them A. baumannii.
Many antibiotics kill bacteria indiscriminately. The researchers believe that the accuracy of abaucin will make it more difficult for drug resistance to emerge and could lead to fewer side effects.
In principle, AI could analyze tens of millions of potential chemical compounds, which would be impractical to do manually.
“AI increases the speed and, in a perfect world, decreases the cost at which we can discover these desperately needed new classes of antibiotics,” Stokes says.
Researchers have tested the principles of artificial intelligence to aid in the discovery of antibiotics with the E coli in 2020, but are now using this knowledge to focus on big threats. They plan to study Staphylococcus aureus and the Pseudomonas aeruginosa Next.
“This discovery further supports the premise that artificial intelligence can significantly accelerate and expand our search for new antibiotics,” says James Collins, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). United.
“I’m thrilled, this work demonstrates that we can use artificial intelligence to help fight pesky pathogens like A. baumannii.”
Dame Sally Davies, a former UK health chief and government advocate against antimicrobial resistance, told BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight:
“We are one step away from victory.”
According to her, the idea of using artificial intelligence was “a big game changer”.
“I’m really happy to see the work he (Stokes) is doing, it’s going to save lives.”
Ben Stock is a lifestyle journalist and author at Gossipify. He writes about topics such as health, wellness, travel, food and home decor. He provides practical advice and inspiration to improve well-being, keeps readers up to date with latest lifestyle news and trends, known for his engaging writing style, in-depth analysis and unique perspectives.