AI has facilitated the discovery of a new antibiotic, marking the first instance of such a breakthrough in over six decades. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the field of Medical Engineering and Science utilized artificial intelligence to identify a drug effective against drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, known for causing skin infections and, in severe cases, life-threatening conditions like pneumonia.

The MIT team employed AI technology to screen 39,000 compounds for their potential to combat the bacteria. The data generated from this screening process was then fed into an AI model, which identified the most promising new antibiotic. This breakthrough holds promise for the future development of more potent drugs.

James Collins, a professor at MIT and one of the study’s authors, highlighted the significance of the research: “The insight here was that we could see what was being learned by the models to make their predictions that certain molecules would make for good antibiotics. Our work provides a framework that is time-efficient, resource-efficient, and mechanistically insightful, from a chemical-structure standpoint, in ways that we haven’t had to date.”

Felix Wong, a postdoc at IMES (Institute for Medical Engineering and Science) and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, emphasized that the new antibiotic can effectively target the bacteria without causing harm to human cells. Wong stated, “We have pretty strong evidence that this new structural class is active against Gram-positive pathogens by selectively dissipating the proton motive force in bacteria.”


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