MIT’s AI Approach to Combat Antibiotic Resistance

Scientists have long struggled to find new antibiotics amid a global crisis of resistance. MIT researchers are now using artificial intelligence to find a solution.

By Sunil Sonkar
2 Min Read
MIT's AI Approach to Combat Antibiotic Resistance

Scientists have struggled hard for years and decades to find new antibiotics and the world is undergoing through a phase of antibiotic resistance with respect to public health. Recurring infections usually takes place due to bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics. MIT researchers have lately turned to artificial intelligence (AI) to find a solution.

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Jackie Valeri, a former MIT-Takeda Fellow, completed her PhD in biological engineering lately and the study of her team is published in Cell Chemical Biology. The study demonstrates how AI can identify compounds that effectively kill dormant bacteria.

It is not a new concept that bacteria are going dormant. Ancient bacteria have been found alive even after millions of years. James J. Collins, leading MIT’s Life Sciences faculty, led the research. His team used AI and has discovered a new class of antibiotics.

Preventable deaths due to drug-resistant infections were 1.27 million in 2019. This highlights the urgent need for effective antibiotics. Targeting dormant bacteria poses a significant challenge. However, MIT researchers used AI to expedite the process.

The research is accompanied with the discovery of semapimod, which is originally an anti-inflammatory drug for Crohn’s disease and has shown promise in killing dormant bacteria, particularly those which are classified as “Gram-negative,” notorious for their resistance to antibiotics.

The unique ability of Semapimod lies in the disruption of the outer membrane of these bacteria. By doing so, it renders them susceptible to antibiotics, potentially revolutionizing treatment for once-untreatable infections.

The discovery opens avenues for the development of new antibiotics and this would be crucial in combating antibiotic resistance. Researchers were able to accelerate the identification of semapimod with the help of the AI.

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