How to fight antibiotic resistance

Jim Collins, faculty lead for life sciences, MIT Jameel Clinic, speaks about the ability of artificial intelligence (AI) to significantly reduce the time and resources required to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to existing medicines. Jim's AI-assisted research led to the discovery of Halicin's antimicrobial properties and he and his colleagues hope to discover and generate molecules for use as antibiotics through the use of AI. Jim says, “We see the opportunity that AI can be harnessed, applied to large datasets that we can create, to discover and design new antibiotics for some of the more problematic pathogens that are facing humankind.”


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to existing medicines creates one of the biggest dangers for global health. According to the Antimicrobial Resistance Collaborators,AMR had a role in 4.95 million deaths in 2019, with the highest death rate — 27.3 deaths per 100,000 people — found in sub-Saharan Africa. This is a problem that only promises to get worse.

“AMR is a huge global health, social, and economic development challenge that is projected to cause $1 trillion in additional healthcare costs and to push 28 million people into poverty by 2050,” says Hanan Balkhy, assistant director-general for AMR at the World Health Organization. When asked about the most pressing AMR-related challenges, Balkhy highlights that “we need better data and evidence; we need countries to invest in strengthening their health systems; we need action across human health, agri-food, and environmental sectors; and we need new antibiotic development.”

Addressing any of those issues comes with extreme complexity. Solving them all verges on the impossible. Nonetheless, experts around the world refuse to surrender to AMR, and many new tactics are being explored.