Superbugs: Why it's so hard to stop the 'silent pandemic'
Antimicrobial resistance already kills millions and is projected to get worse. But there is little incentive for Big Pharma to tackle the issue. In the summer of 2021, researchers at the MIT Jameel Clinic, including life sciences lead James Collins, along with colleagues at McMaster University fed an algorithm 7,000 chemical compounds in the hope that it would identify one that could kill Acinetobacter baumannii.
Described by Jonathan Stokes, one of the scientists involved, as a 'notoriously challenging' pathogen, strains of Acinetobacter have become resistant to antibiotics over the past few decades, allowing them to prey on weakened hospital patients and leaving doctors powerless to treat them. It took just an hour and a half—a long lunch—for the AI to serve up a potential new antibiotic, named Abaucin, an offering to a world contending with the rise of so-called superbugs: bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that have mutated and no longer respond to the drugs we have available.