Complex Made Simple

A giant killer that dwarfs the Coronavirus has just found its tormentor thanks to AI

The Coronavirus has taken the world by storm for its ability to quickly spread. As a killer, it is not even comparable to bacterial infections which are decimating lives as antibiotics are no longer effective. Until now

Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus? No Over the course of this year, 700,000 people around the world will die of drug-resistant infections AI/ML screened more than 100 million chemical compounds in a matter of days

Antibiotics help stop bacterial infections but keeping them from copying and replicating themselves in our bodies.

Only they are not doing that creating what is called bacterial resistance or antibiotic resistance. And it’s a global problem.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned in November that we’re entering a time when our antibiotics are becoming pretty much useless. We’ve created this crisis by overusing antibiotics in the treatment of humans, animals, and crops. The bacteria have adapted to our drugs, morphing into superbugs that can all too easily decimate our health.

And Big Pharma companies abandoned the expensive pursuit of developing new strains of antibiotics because there is no money in it, leaving the global population at the mercy of previously treatable diseases.

AI, not MDs, found a way out of that but isolating a brand new class of antibiotics that work on drug-resistant strains, and kill the bug, no matter what.

But before getting into that, some are saying that current antibiotics can fight the coronavirus outbreak, instead of waiting months or years for antidotes to make their way into the market.

Read: Now, get ‘virtual’ treatment for ‘real’ illnesses!

Unused Coronavirus treatment?

Scientists at Norwegian University of Science and Technology claim antibiotics already on the market could be re-purposed and treat the coronavirus, despite World Health Organization (WHO) warnings that these drugs do nothing against viruses and overusing them fuels killer superbugs.

The virus has infected over 82,000 infected in over 50 countries and killed around 3000.

Anti-virals as well as four antibiotics helped stop the virus in lab tests.

 But this was quickly dispelled by the WHO.

‘Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus? No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria,’ the WHO’s website clearly states. 

Read: Has the world blown this Coronavirus outbreak out of proportion?

Antibiotics: Bacteria killer on the horizon 

Every couple of minutes, one person somewhere will die because of an infection that antibiotics can no longer treat effectively, according to VOX.

And over the course of this year, 700,000 people around the world will die of drug-resistant infections. That annual death toll could rise to 10 million by 2050, experts warn, if we don’t make a radical change.

That makes the Coronavirus look more like a nuisance than the plague it is now portrayed. 

For the first time, AI researchers have figured out how to identify brand new classes of antibiotics by training a neural network to predict which molecules will have bacteria-killing properties. They’ve just published their findings in the journal Cell.

The drug-resistant strains of M. tuberculosis, C. difficile, and several other pathogens in mice can now be tackled.  

AI was fed data on 2,335 molecules that we know have antibacterial properties, then got the model to go through a whopping 107 million molecules and predict which might fight E. coli effectively, an intestinal bacteria. 

Read: How fit are we? Heart stopping truths about health and lifestyle in the region

The machine-learning algorithm identified Halicin, a new antibiotic compound that kills strains of bacteria that are resistant to all known antibiotics.

It did so by screening more than 100 million chemical compounds in a matter of days.   

No human can do that within a reasonable amount of time.

AI has shown promise in drug discovery. Just last month, a British startup called Exscientia claimed to have made the first AI-designed drug that will be clinically tested on humans. That drug is for OCD.

 Next, halicin will need to be tested in clinical trials.