Supercomputers Could Be The Answer To The Biggest Threat To Human Health
Scientists have taken a “giant leap” in using supercomputers to combat the greatest threat to human health posed by antibiotic resistance.
Each year, an estimated 700,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and that number is expected to reach millions in the years to come.
And without effective antibiotics, life expectancy is expected to drop by 20 years, prompting scientists to embark on a race to develop new antibiotics to fight diseases faster than diseases can mutate and evolve.
Today, an international team of researchers, co-led by Dr Gerhard Koenig of the University of Portsmouth, are using computers to redesign existing antibiotics to track disease progression for a study published in the journal PNAS.
Computer chemist Dr Koenig said: âAntibiotics are one of the pillars of modern medicine and antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to human health. There is an urgent need to develop new ways to fight the constantly evolving bacteria.
âDeveloping a new antibiotic usually involves finding a new target that is essential for the survival of a wide variety of different bacteria.
âIt is extremely difficult and only very few new classes of antibiotics have been developed in recent times.
âWe took a simpler approach by starting with an existing antibiotic, which is ineffective against new resistant strains, and modifying it so that it is now able to overcome resistance mechanisms. “
The team has shown that their best drug candidate, which has not yet been in clinical trials, is up to 56 times more active for the bacterial strains tested than two antibiotics on the essential drugs list of the ‘World Health Organization (WHO), erythromycin and clarithromycin.
Dr Koenig said: ‘Not only is our best candidate more effective against the targets tested, but he also shows activity against the three highest ranked bacteria on the WHO priority list where existing antibiotics tested do not work. .
“It is only a matter of time before bacteria develop counter-strategies against our counter-strategies and become resistant to the new antibiotic, so we will have to continue to study the mechanisms of bacterial resistance and develop new derivatives accordingly. . “
The aim of the study is to show that the resistance mechanisms of bacteria can be approached in a systematic way, allowing science to continuously struggle with a computerized evolution of new antibiotics.
Dr Koenig said: âOur computers are getting faster and faster every year. There is therefore some hope that we will be able to reverse the trend.
“If computers can beat the world chess champion, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to beat bacteria as well.”