A team of scientists from McMaster University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has discovered a new antibiotic that could be used to kill a deadly superbug, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Nature Chemical Biology.
The superbug in question is Acinetobacter baumannii, which the World Health Organization classifies as a “critical” threat among its “priority pathogens”.
This pathogen is a family of bacteria that pose the “greatest threat” to human health.
According to the World Health Organization, bacteria have a built-in ability to find new ways to resist treatment and can pass on genetic material that allows other bacteria to become drug-resistant.
A baumannii poses a threat to hospitals, nursing homes and patients who need ventilators and blood catheters, as well as those with open wounds from surgery.
Bacteria can live for long periods of time in environmental services and shared equipment and are often spread by hands.
In addition to blood infections, A baumannii can cause infections in the urinary tract and lungs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bacteria can “colonize” or live in a patient without causing infection or symptoms
Thursday’s study revealed that researchers used an artificial intelligence algorithm to screen thousands of antibacterial molecules in an attempt to predict new structural classes.
As a result of the AI screening, the researchers were able to identify a new antibacterial compound they named abaucin.
“We had a lot of data that told us which chemicals could kill a group of bacteria and which ones couldn’t,” said graduate student Gary Liu of MacMaster University. “My job was to train this model, and all this model would do is essentially tell us whether new molecules would have antibacterial properties,” said Gary Liu, a graduate student at MacMaster University.
After training the artificial intelligence model, scientists used it to analyze 6,680 compounds it had not encountered before.
The analysis took an hour and a half and produced several hundred compounds, 240 of which were then tested in a laboratory.
Laboratory tests eventually revealed nine potential antibiotics, including abaucin.