Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to make groundbreaking strides in various fields, including healthcare. A recent study published in the science journal Nature Chemical Biology reveals that scientists from McMaster University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have utilized AI to discover a new antibiotic capable of combating a deadly superbug, Acinetobacter baumannii.
The Threat of Acinetobacter baumannii
Acinetobacter baumannii is a superbug that the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified as a “critical” threat among its “priority pathogens” – a group of bacteria families that pose the “greatest threat” to human health. This bacteria has built-in abilities to resist treatment and can pass along genetic material that allows other bacteria to become drug-resistant. It poses a significant threat to hospitals, nursing homes, and patients who require ventilators and blood catheters, as well as those who have open wounds from surgeries. The bacteria can live for prolonged periods on environmental surfaces and shared equipment, often spreading through contaminated hands.
The Role of AI in Antibiotic Discovery
In this study, researchers used an AI algorithm to screen thousands of antibacterial molecules in an attempt to predict new structural classes. This AI screening led to the identification of a new antibacterial compound named abaucin. Gary Liu, a graduate student from MacMaster University who worked on the research, explained that the AI model was trained to predict if new molecules would have antibacterial properties or not. This process significantly increased the efficiency of the drug discovery pipeline.
After training the AI model, it was used to analyze 6,680 compounds that it had not previously encountered. The analysis took an hour and a half and produced several hundred compounds, 240 of which were then tested in a laboratory. Laboratory testing ultimately revealed nine potential antibiotics, including abaucin.
The Impact of Abaucin
The newly discovered molecule, abaucin, was tested against A. baumannii in a wound infection model in mice and was found to suppress the infection. Jonathan Stokes, an assistant professor at McMaster University’s department of biomedicine and biochemistry who helped lead the study, stated that this work validates the benefits of machine learning in the search for new antibiotics. He added that AI methods afford us the opportunity to vastly increase the rate at which we discover new antibiotics, and we can do it at a reduced cost.
In conclusion, the discovery of abaucin through AI is a significant milestone in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria. It showcases the potential of AI in revolutionizing healthcare and drug discovery, providing hope for the future of antibiotic treatments