A new antibiotic called abaucin that can kill deadly, drug-resistant pathogens has been discovered with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).
Research published in Nature Chemical Biology demonstrated that AI was able to quickly filter out 7,500 molecules that were found to inhibit the growth of superbugs Acinetobacter baumaniii, a task that would be difficult to do manually. Within an hour and a half, AI narrowed down 250 potential compounds, which were then tested in the laboratory. The most potent of all was found to be the antibiotic abaucin.
Acinetobacter baumaniii is a gram-negative bacterium, which, when it enters the bloodstream, can cause fever, chills and vomiting. It can also cause pneumonia and urinary tract infections, and can be fatal for seriously ill patients.
Because these bacteria are multidrug resistant, it has become increasingly difficult to develop drugs to target infections caused by superbugs. As more than one million people die from treatment-resistant bacterial infections each year, there is an unmet need for therapies to target difficult-to-treat diseases and expand treatment options.
Pathogen is one of the top on a list bacteria that urgently need new antibiotics, published by the World Health Organization (WHO). It poses a threat to people with open wounds and hospitals – where it can survive on medical equipment and surfaces – because the infection is considered nosocomial.
What is abausin?
Abaucin is a new antibiotic capable of interfering with lipoprotein trafficking, a key process in cellular protein transport. While their antibiotic properties have been successfully investigated during this research, much remains to be revealed about these compounds and their efficacy.
Although the drug is effective against Acinetobacter baumaniiiappears to have no effect on other bacterial strains.
Drug discovery: AI through the years
For the study, scientists first trained an AI to study the chemical properties of drugs by feeding them information found by observing the compounds against them Acinetobacter baumaniii. Since drug development has yet to begin with potential clinical trials further ahead, this could be the first AI antibiotic to be prescribed.
Previously, the halicin compound found through AI had been studied against Escherichia coli – a gram-negative bacterium that can cause urinary tract infections, pneumonia, bacteremia, and meningitis.
As biotech harnesses the power of AI, with companies like LabGenius developing treatments that target tumors using machine learning, AI has become a promising field in drug discovery, with hopes of even predicting future pandemics.