Scientists use AI to find drug that kills bacteria responsible for many drug-resistant infections


Scientists have found a drug that can combat drug-resistant infections – and they’ve done it using artificial intelligence.

Using a machine-learning algorithm, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Canada’s McMaster University have identified a new antibiotic that can kill a type of bacteria responsible for many drug-resistant infections.

The compound kills Acinetobacter baumannii, a species of bacteria often found in hospitals. It can cause pneumonia, meningitis and other serious infections.

This pathogen is a leading cause of infection in wounded soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Using an artificial intelligence algorithm, researchers at MIT and McMaster University have identified a new antibiotic that can kill a type of bacteria (Acinetobacter baumannii, pink) that is responsible for many drug-resistant infections. (Kristin Daniloff/MIT; Acinetobacter baumannii image courtesy of CDC)

Over the past decades, many pathogenic bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics, while some new antibiotics have been developed.

MIT said in a release that the researchers identified the drug from a catalog of nearly 7,000 potential drug compounds using a machine-learning model that they trained to assess whether a chemical compound inhibited bacterial growth. stops or not

To get training data for the model, they first exposed bacteria grown in a lab dish to about 7,500 different chemical compounds to see what could inhibit the growth of the pathogen. They fed each molecular structure into their model and determined whether each structure could inhibit bacterial growth.

MIT campus

People walk through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photographer: Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

After the model was trained, it was used to analyze a set of 6,680 compounds it hadn’t seen before, and the researchers narrowed down 240 hits to test experimentally, from training to existing antibiotics or Focused on compounds with structures different from molecules. data That testing led to nine antibiotics, including one that was very strong.

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The compound, which was originally discovered as a potential diabetes drug, proved to be highly effective in killing bacteria. However, it had no effect on other types of bacteria.

The university noted that the ability to kill a “narrow spectrum” is advantageous because it minimizes the risk of bacteria quickly developing resistance to the drug. In addition, the drug potentially protects the beneficial bacteria that live in the human gut and helps suppress opportunistic infections.

McMaster University Booth

McMaster University’s booth at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. (RJ Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The scientists named the drug abusin and studies in mice showed it could treat bacterial wound infections. In laboratory tests, it was found to be active against several drug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii strains isolated from human patients. The drug was shown in additional experiments to kill cells by interfering with a process known as lipoprotein trafficking. Cells use it to transport proteins from the cell interior to the cell envelope.

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A lab at McMaster University is now working for others to optimize the compound’s medicinal properties and hopefully develop it for eventual use in patients.

The study’s authors also plan to use their modeling approach to identify potential antibiotics for other types of drug-resistant infections.

The findings were published Thursday in the journal “Nature Chemical Biology.”

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