MIT Scientists Find Drug That Could Combat Infections Using AI

Researchers at MIT and McMaster University have use AI to identify a new antibiotic that is capable of fighting drug-resistant infections caused by Acinetobacter baumannii, a bacterium often found in hospitals.

Acinetobacter baumannii was combated with AI-invented antibiotic

The team identified the new antibiotic from almost 7,000 potential drug compounds with an AI model they trained to assess whether a chemical compound would inhibit the growth of A. baumannii. The algorithm was given information about which structures could inhibit bacterial growth and learned chemical features linked to growth inhibition. After training, the researchers used the model to analyse around 6,680 compounds it had not previously seen, resulting in a few hundred top hits. From these, they chose 240 to test experimentally in the lab, focusing on those with structures different from existing antibiotics or molecules from the training data.

They discovered nine antibiotics, including one very potent compound. The molecule was originally investigated as a potential diabetes drug and turned out to be extremely effective at killing A. baumannii but had no impact on other species of bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.

The researchers plan to use their modelling approach to identify potential antibiotics for other types of drug-resistant infections, including those caused by Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The research was funded by several organisations, including the David Braley Center for Antibiotic Discovery, the Weston Family Foundation, and others.

Jonathan Stokes, former MIT postdoc who is now an assistant professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences at McMaster University, said: “Acinetobacter can survive on hospital doorknobs and equipment for long periods of time, and it can take up antibiotic resistance genes from its environment. It’s really common now to find A. baumannii isolates that are resistant to nearly every antibiotic. This finding further supports the premise that AI can significantly accelerate and expand our search for novel antibiotics.”

Alex Patel

An accomplished editor with a specialization in AI articles. Born and raised in NYC, USA. He graduated the Columbia University, and worked in tech companies of USA and Canada.

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