Scientists discover the first new antibiotics in over 60 years using AI

Scientists discover the first new antibiotics in over 60 years using AI

The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in medical research has reached a groundbreaking milestone, contributing to the discovery of a new class of antibiotics effective against drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. This achievement is noteworthy as it marks the first identification of new antibiotics in six decades, presenting a promising development in the ongoing battle against antibiotic resistance. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) leveraged deep learning models to predict the activity and toxicity of a newly identified compound targeted at MRSA.

The research methodology involved training an extensively enlarged deep learning model with an expanded dataset comprising approximately 39,000 compounds evaluated for their antibiotic activity against MRSA. This sophisticated deep learning model autonomously learned and represented features from the data without explicit programming, showcasing the power of AI in accelerating drug discovery processes. The focus of this study was to open the “black box” of deep learning models, gaining insights into the intricate processes occurring within the neural networks.

MRSA infections pose a significant health threat, ranging from mild skin infections to severe and potentially life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia and bloodstream infections. In the European Union alone, nearly 150,000 MRSA infections occur annually, resulting in approximately 35,000 deaths from antimicrobial-resistant infections. The urgent need for novel antibiotics to combat these infections underscores the significance of the MIT research.

The MIT researchers utilized three additional deep-learning models to assess the toxicity of compounds on various types of human cells, refining the selection of potential drugs. By integrating toxicity predictions with antimicrobial activity data, the researchers identified compounds capable of effectively combating MRSA with minimal harm to human cells. Subsequently, approximately 12 million commercially available compounds were screened using this comprehensive approach.

The study’s results were promising, as the models identified compounds from five different classes exhibiting predicted activity against MRSA. In laboratory experiments, around 280 of these compounds were tested against MRSA, leading to the identification of two promising antibiotic candidates from the same class. These candidates demonstrated significant efficacy in reducing MRSA populations in experiments involving mouse models for both MRSA skin infections and systemic infections.

In conclusion, the integration of AI in this research has paved the way for a more efficient and mechanistically insightful framework for identifying potential antibiotics. The groundbreaking discovery of a new class of antibiotics against MRSA showcases the transformative impact of AI on medical research and drug development, offering hope in the fight against antibiotic resistance, a critical global health concern.