Scientists used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to discover a new antibiotic that can kill a deadly species of super-bacteria
Artificial Intelligence helped narrow down thousands of potential chemicals that could be tested in the lab.
The result was a powerful, experimental antibiotic called abaucin, which will need further research before it can be used, according to the BBC.
Researchers in Canada and the US argue that AI has the power to massively accelerate the discovery of new drugs.
Stopping super bacteria
Antibiotics kill bacteria. However, there has been a lack of new drugs for decades, and bacteria are becoming harder to treat as they develop resistance to the ones we have.
More than one million people a year are estimated to die from infections that resist antibiotic treatment.
The researchers focused on one of the most problematic species of bacteria – Acinetobacter baumannii, which can infect wounds and cause pneumonia.
It may not be known, however, it is one of three superbugs that the World Health Organization has identified as a “critical” threat.
This superbug is able to avoid many antibiotics and is a problem in hospitals and care homes, where it can survive on surfaces and medical equipment.
To discover a new antibiotic, researchers first had to train the AI program. They took thousands of drugs where the exact chemical structure was known and manually tested them on Acinetobacter baumannii to see which could slow or kill it.
This information was fed to the AI so that it could learn the chemical characteristics of drugs that could attack the problem bacteria.
The AI then released a list of 6,680 compounds whose efficacy was unknown. The results – published in Nature Chemical Biology – showed that the AI took an hour and a half to generate a shortlist.
The researchers tested 240 antibiotics in the lab and found nine potential ones. One of them was the incredibly powerful antibiotic abaucin.
The next step is to perfect the drug in the lab and then run clinical trials.
Scientists expect the first AI antibiotics to be available for prescription by 2030.
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