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Artificial intelligence discovers powerful antibiotic
The new machine-learning approach can screen millions of chemical compounds in a matter of days.

New drug works against a wide range of resistant bacteria

A powerful new antibiotic that can work against a wide range of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been discovered using artificial intelligence (AI).

The antibiotic, called halicin, was identified by a machine-learning algorithm out of 100 million chemical compounds. In laboratory tests, halicin killed many bacterial strains that are resistant to treatment, including Clostridium difficile, Acinetobacter baumannii, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Researchers also used the antibiotic to treat mice infected with A. baumannii, a bacterium that has infected many U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. This particular strain of antibiotic is resistant to all known antibiotics, but the application of a halicin-containing ointment cleared the infections within 24-hours. 

The work was led by Professor James Collins at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and published in the journal Cell.

“We wanted to develop a platform that would allow us to harness the power of artificial intelligence to usher in a new age of antibiotic drug discovery,” explained Professor Collins. “Our approach revealed this amazing molecule which is arguably one of the more powerful antibiotics that has been discovered.”

Antibiotic-resistance is considered to be a serious risk to public health. In 2014, the lack of effectiveness of existing antibiotics combined with the lack of new antibiotic treatments led the World Health Organisation to describe the situation as a "post-antibiotic era" where people could die from simple infections that have been treatable for decades.

Current antibiotic screening methods are expensive, time-consuming and are usually limited to a small range of chemical compounds. With this new machine-led approach, researchers can screen millions of chemical compounds within a few days.

The study identified several other antibiotic candidates which the researchers plan to test further. They say the computer model could also be used to develop new drugs, based on what it has learned about chemical structures that enable drugs to kill bacteria.

“This groundbreaking work signifies a paradigm shift in antibiotic discovery and indeed in drug discovery more generally,” says Roy Kishony, a professor of biology and computer science at Technion (the Israel Institute of Technology), who was not involved in the study.

“Beyond in silica screens, this approach will allow using deep learning at all stages of antibiotic development, from discovery to improved efficacy and toxicity through drug modifications and medicinal chemistry.”


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BEVA gives vets access to free membership for three months

News Story 1
 BEVA has announced that it is cutting membership renewal charges for the next three months in order to support all veterinary professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Memberships for all existing BEVA members will be extended until 30 June 2020. Veterinary professionals who are not members of BEVA will also be able to sign up for a free membership until 30 June 2020.

BEVA president Tim Mair said: "In this extraordinary time of global crisis our profession, as with many industries, is under immense pressure. By offering free membership we are giving equine vets easy access to a wealth of supportive resources and online CPD."

To sign up please visit the BEVA website.

Image (c) BEVA. 

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LOVE Gorgie Farm seeking veterinary volunteers

LOVE Gorgie Farm in Edinburgh is looking for people with veterinary and animal care experience, who would be interested in volunteering to help care for its animals during these difficult times.

The community-owned charity farm opened to the public only last month, but decided to close temporarily amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Its three-person team is working to care for the animals behind the scenes and the farm is now operating as a food bank for the public, delivering free breakfasts to local school children.

In an effort to build a contingency plan to secure the welfare of its animals, LOVE Gorgie Farm is looking for volunteers who would be able to step in if any team members fell sick or needed to self-isolate.

Those interested in volunteering are asked to contact