Powerful new antibiotic to fight deadly superbugs discovered by AI system

February 26, 2020

Medical science has always strived to stay ahead of bacteria as evolving antibiotic resistance could lead to a dismal future. Researchers at leading US universities – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard – have just identified a powerful new antibiotic called halicin, using an artificial intelligence (AI) model. The drug is effective against many species of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“We wanted to harness the power of AI in a new age of antibiotic drug discovery,” said MIT professor James Collins. “Our approach revealed this amazing molecule which is arguably one of the more powerful antibiotics that has been discovered.”

After sorting through a library of about 6,000 drug compounds to search for those that would have strong antibacterial activity, the AI system singled out halicin, which was found to be capable of killing almost every species of bacteria that it was tested against, including the deadly Mycobacterium tuberculosis. An ointment containing halicin was applied to mice infected with Acinetobacter baumannii, yielding similar positive results in just 24 hours. A. baumannii is acoloniser of severely unwell patients and resistant to all known types of antibiotics.

It was further revealed that halicin disrupts the bacteria’s ability to maintain an electrochemical gradient on their outer membranes and greatly affects how they store energy. This unique mechanism should make it difficult for bacteria to develop resistance to halicin – the next phase of work will be to develop halicin for eventual human use.


Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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