In a world-first, researchers from the US are ready to develop a new antibiotic using artificial intelligence (AI). It is a breakthrough in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria. After the invention of penicillin, antibiotics have a major role in modern medicine, but the efficiency has diminished seriously in the last years as extreme use has made bacteria to become resistant.
To find chemical compounds capable of fighting infections using new techniques than those of existing drugs, MIT and Harvard scientists trained a machine learning algorithm. James Collins, a professor of medical engineering at MIT and another senior authors said, " Our approach revealed this amazing molecule which is arguably one of the more powerful antibiotics that has been discovered."
The US researchers from MIT have trained the model to analyze the structure of 2,500 molecules and discovered a compound called "Halicin" – named after the fictional artificial intelligence character from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. The real world testing of the compound is done on bacteria strains taken from patients and grown in lab dishes. The newly discovered compound was able to kill bacteria including Clostridium difficile, Acinetobacter baumannii, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
The newly discovered compound cured two mice with A. baumannii that previously affected a large number of US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. All known antibiotics were resistant to the infection strain on the mice, but the newly found halicin cured the infected mice within 24 hours. Experiments carried out with AI computer models to find drugs is not a new one but it had never been successful until now.
Regina Barzilay, a professor of computer science at MIT said, " The machine learning model can explore...large chemical spaces that can be prohibitively expensive for traditional experimental approaches." The development has become the future of antibiotics and provides hope and without the use of machine to accelerate drug discovery, resistant infection death rate could reach 10 million a year by 2050.
Scientists from MIT are planning further studies on halicin and in working with pharmaceutical organizations or non-profits to develop the drug to use it on humans.