Bacteria have become more and more ‘intelligent’ with time. Like any form of life, they had to adapt to the unfriendly environment to survive. But when it comes to humans, bacteria have to fight for survival. Humans found a way to decimate bacteria with antibiotics. And bacteria found the means to resist them.
Now, medicine is at a turning point, as bacteria seem to win the war as they turned into what we know as superbugs. Specialists say that unless new drugs are developed urgently, resistant infections could kill ten million people per year by 2050.
Artificial Intelligence identified new types of antibiotics
Fighting with human impotence to find new molecules that could eventually kill bacteria, scientists called in the help of artificial intelligence. A pioneering machine helped the researchers to find new types of antibiotics. The network is trained to look for molecules with a particular activity.
One of the molecules found by the AI works as a killer against a wide range of bacteria, including tuberculosis and strains considered untreatable – Halicin. It was found without a previous human assumption from a pool of more than 100 million molecules, only with the means of the AI.
Researchers have high expectations from the new approach. AI is expected to bring hope for cancer or neurodegenerative diseases. It is somehow considered to work just like humankind did. As it emulates the human brain structure, which learns the properties of molecules atom by atom, the deep learning machine will hopefully make discoveries from scratch, just like it did with Halicin. So far, it did so with E.coli bacteria.
How the AI found this powerful antibiotic against superbugs
The deep learning machine screened the Drug Repurposing Hub, a library that contains around 6,000 molecules under investigation for human diseases. The task was to identify molecules that could fight E.coli other than the ones already known.
And the AI turned one result: Halicin. Halicin is a molecule tested for type 2 diabetes, but lab studies showed that E.coli is not resistant to it. And then tuberculosis proved to be broken by it. And this is, hopefully, just the beginning.