How AI helped discover new antibiotics to fight deadly superbugs

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In a breakthrough discovery, researchers at McMaster University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology harnessed the power of artificial intelligence to unveil a new antibiotic. As revealed in a study published in Nature Chemical Biology, this breakthrough could eradicate the deadly superbugs that plague hospitals and pose a grave threat to human health. .

What is the superbug in question?

The superbug we are talking about is called Acinetobacter baumannii, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is a very serious threat. WHO classifies this as the group of bacteria that pose the greatest danger to human health. These bacteria have a natural ability to resist treatment and can also share that ability with other bacteria, resulting in resistance to drugs as well.

A. baumannii is a problem in hospitals, nursing homes and other settings, in patients on mechanical ventilation, and in patients with catheters and surgical wounds. It can adhere to surfaces and shared facilities for extended periods of time and can be spread through contaminated hands. reports that it can cause not only blood infections, but also urinary tract and lung infections. Guardian.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also says the bacterium can live in patients without causing infection or symptoms.

How did AI make it happen?

In a recent study, researchers sought to harness the power of AI algorithms to sift through a vast array of antibacterial molecules and reveal new structural classes. Through the process of AI screening, a breakthrough has occurred with the emergence of a new compound, abaucin, with potent antibacterial properties.

Gary Liu, a dedicated McMaster University graduate student who worked on the study, explained their approach to The Guardian. By leveraging extensive data on the effectiveness of various chemicals against bacteria, an AI model was trained to identify the antibacterial potential of new molecules. Liu’s role includes training models to predict whether these novel compounds have antibacterial properties, streamlining the drug discovery process and alerting researchers to the most promising candidates. Now I can concentrate.

After successfully training the AI ​​model, the researchers tested it, analyzing 6,680 staggering compounds that the algorithm had never encountered before. AI analysis generated hundreds of compounds worthy of consideration in just an hour and a half. 240 of these compounds were then subjected to rigorous clinical testing to assess their efficacy. A comprehensive testing process yielded nine antibiotic candidates, including the breakthrough Abaucin.

This ingenious combination of artificial intelligence and scientific expertise has accelerated drug discovery pipelines, enabling researchers to rapidly identify and evaluate promising antimicrobial compounds. The application of AI algorithms in this manner represents a major advance in the field of drug development and provides a more efficient and targeted approach to combat antibiotic-resistant superbugs like Acinetobacter his baumannii. .

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    First published: Jun 5, 2023, 15:55 IST

    Last update: Jun 5, 2023, 15:55 IST

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