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An AI developed a new antibiotic that could save the day

Published Feb 21st, 2020 3:03PM EST
ai antibiotics
Image: Oleksiy Maksymenko/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

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Modern medicine has a big problem, and it stems from the overuse of antibiotics. For years, doctors have feared that the go-to antibiotics that are relied on to kill off infections would begin to fail, as new so-called “superbug” infections found a way around them. That’s already started to happen, and the arms race between dangerous microorganisms and scientists is being waged every day.

Now, a team of researchers from MIT has developed a new type of antibiotic that may work against antibiotic-resistant infections. Well, the researchers themselves didn’t develop it… they told a computer to do it for them, and it worked.

Using a computer model capable of crunching the numbers on tens of millions of chemical compounds in a fraction of the time it would take a team of human scientists to accomplish the same task, the AI system identified a number of antibiotic candidates that show serious promise.

“We wanted to develop a platform that would allow us to harness the power of artificial intelligence to usher in a new age of antibiotic drug discovery,” James Collins, senior author of the study, said in a statement. “Our approach revealed this amazing molecule which is arguably one of the more powerful antibiotics that has been discovered.”

One of the antibiotic candidates has already proven to be potentially useful against some of the most dangerous bacteria in testing. Some of the bacteria the new antibiotic successfully tackled are already known to be resistant to most common antibiotics, suggesting the new drug could be a secret weapon for doctors battling deadly diseases.