Artificial Intelligence Discovers Potent Antibiotic

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Anewly designed artificial intelligence tool based on the structure of the brain has identified a molecule capable of wiping out a number of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, according to a study published on February 20 in Cell. The molecule, halicin, which had previously been investigated as a potential treatment for diabetes, demonstrated activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis, and several other hard-to-treat microbes. The discovery comes at a time when novel antibiotics are becoming increasingly difficult to find, reports STAT, and when drug-resistant bacteria are a growing global threat. The Interagency Coordination Group (IACG) on Antimicrobial Resistance convened by United Nations a few years ago released a report in 2019 estimating that drug-resistant diseases could result in 10 million deaths per year by 2050. Despite the urgency in the search for new antibiotics, a lack of financial incentives has caused pharmaceutical companies to scale back their research, according to STAT. "I do think this platform will very directly reduce the cost involved in the discovery phase of antibiotic development," coauthor James Collins of MIT tells STAT.

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