making headlines | Powerful antibiotic discovered by artificial intelligence

progress in: bio-medicine
March 10, 2020

image | above

Pictured is a bio-medical test called an antibiogram. Bacteria is grown in a glass lab tray called a petri dish. A range of antibiotics are applied to the dish — each one is labeled with a button.

After some time, researchers can examine the space around each button. They can see which antibiotics destroyed the bacteria — and which did not.


— contents —

~ story facts
~ reading

— story facts —-

A powerful antibiotic was discovered using an artificial intelligence software tool.

part 1:

  • researchers at MIT used intelligent software to search a library of substances for possible new antibiotics
  • the program successfully identified a compound that has enormous promise for use as an antibiotic
  • the antibiotic they discovered — and named “halicin” — can destroy some of the most dangerous bacteria
  • in lab tests, the drug destroyed several of the world’s most problematic disease-causing bacteria
  • including some strains that are resistant to all known antibiotics
  • it also cleared infections — in 2 lab mouse tests

part 2:

  • the team used a software program designed for “deep learning” — a type of artificial intelligence
  • it can see patterns in vast amounts of data — and select best-fit items that meet a researcher’s criteria
  • the researchers showed the software how to identify types of molecules that destroy bacteria
  • they input — into the program — a library with the molecular features of 2,500 drugs + natural compounds
  • along with data on how well (or not) the substance blocked the growth of the bacteria named escherichia coli
  • so the software program learned what molecular features created good antibiotics
  • next — the team input the program with a library of 6,000 compounds
  • these new substances were under investigation for treating various human diseases
  • the program was set to look for compounds that had anti-microbial features
  • but were also substantially different from current antibiotics
  • in a few hours — the program assessed the compounds + selected some that might be good antibiotics

part 3:

  • the researchers used those selections to test on a range of infections
  • the compound they named halicin — was especially effective
  • they treated numerous drug-resistant infections with halicin
  • halicin killed: mycobacterium tuberculosis — the bacteria that causes the serious lung illness tuberculosis
  • halicin killed: strains of enterobacteriaceae — these bacteria are resistant to carbapenems
  • carbapenems — are a type of antibiotic that are the last resort for enterobacteriaceae infections
  • carbapenems — are commonly used to treat severe + high-risk bacterial infections
  • carbapenems — are reserved for multi-drug-resistant (MDR) bacterial infections
  • halicin cleared: the bacteria clostridiodes difficile + the bacteria acinetobacter baumannii —  in mice
  • halicin could be a much-needed, life-saving antibiotic
  • halicin may be able to treat the worst infections
  • the research team is optimistic

part 4:

  • the World Health Organization said drug-resistant infection is one of the biggest threats to global health
  • using artificial intelligence tech for health-care research is just beginning
  • but major breakthroughs are already being made

image | above

A petri dish in a bio-medical lab holds growing bacteria that was treated with a test of antibiotics.

image | above

The team tested the antibiotic they discovered — and named “halicin” — on infected lab mice, to see if it could clear difficult bacteria from their bodies. The experiment was successful.


1. |

school: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
motto: mind + hand
web: home • channel

story title: Artificial intelligence yields new antibiotic
read | story

— summary —

A deep-learning model identifies a powerful new drug that can kill many species of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

2. |

broadcast: BBC
tag line: To inform, educate, and entertain.
web: home • channel

story title: Scientists discover powerful antibiotic using AI
read | story

— summary —

In a world first, scientists have discovered a new type of antibiotic using artificial intelligence.

3. |

publication: the Guardian
tag line: The world’s leading liberal voice.

story title: Powerful antibiotic discovered using machine learning for the first time
read | story

— summary —

Team at MIT says halicin kills some of the world’s most dangerous strains.

presented by

group: Guardian Media Group • the Scott Trust
tag line: Available for everyone, funded by readers.
web: page • page


platform: the Conversation
tag line: Academic rigor, journalistic flair.
web: home • channel

story title: Deep learning AI discovers surprising new antibiotics
read | story

— summary —

New antibiotics are desperately needed. Yet few new antibiotics have entered the market of late, and even these are just minor variants of old antibiotics. While the prospects look bleak, the recent revolution in artificial intelligence offers new hope.

5. |

publication: Nature
tag line: ~
web: home • channel

story title: Powerful antibiotics discovered using AI
read | story

— summary —

Machine learning spots molecules that work even against “un-treatable” strains of bacteria.

presented by

group: Springer
tag line: International publisher: science, technology, medicine.
web: home • channel

6. |

publication: Financial Times
tag line: Make sense of a disrupted world.
web: home • channel

story title: AI discovers antibiotics to treat drug-resistant diseases
read | story

— summary —

Machine learning uncovers potent new drug able to kill 35 powerful bacteria.

presented by

company: Nikkei
tag line: fair + impartial
web: home

7. |

publication: Stat
tag line: Reporting from the frontiers of health + medicine.
web: home channel

story title: Aided by machine learning, scientists find a novel antibiotic able to kill super-bugs in mice
read | story

— summary —

Now artificial intelligence is giving scientists a reason to dramatically expand their search into data-bases of molecules that look nothing like existing antiobiotics.

presented by

group: Boston Globe Media
tag line: New England’s leading media company.
web: home

8. |

publication: Singularity Hub
tag line: ~
web: home • channel

story title: AI just discovered a new antibiotic to kill the world’s nastiest bacteria
read | story

— summary —


presented by

company: by Singularity Univ.
tag line:
web: home • channel




company: IBM
tag line: Think.
web: home • channel

project: Watson for Health
tag line: Making progress in health, together.
web: : home  learn about AI in medicine

— summary —

Researchers are building better software with artificial intelligence for applications in medicine. Gaining insights into diagnostics, health-care processes, treatment options, and patient outcomes — with the support of computers using a technique called machine learning.

publication: AI in HealthCare
tag line:
Innovation to transform health-care.
web: home

presented by

company: TriMed Media
tag line:
web: home


— notes —

AI = artificial intelligence
ML = machine learning

MDR = multi-drug-resistant

MIT = Massachusetts Institute of Technology
IBM = International Business Machines
WHO = World Health Organization