BOSTON (CBS) — Bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, but using artificial intelligence, scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new powerful antibiotic.

Only a few antibiotics have been developed in recent years because the process is costly and time-consuming. But researchers at MIT trained a computer to screen thousands of chemical compounds for their ability to kill bacteria with the low likelihood of hurting human cells.

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They found one they named halicin, after the AI system in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

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“MIT researchers used a machine-learning algorithm to identify a drug called halicin that kills many strains of bacteria. Halicin (top row) prevented the development of antibiotic resistance in E. coli, while ciprofloxacin (bottom row) did not.” (Photo courtesy: Collins Lab at MIT)

They tested it against dozens of bacteria in lab dishes and found it could kill many strains that are resistant to treatment. As an ointment on in mice, it cleared infections with a bacterium resistant to all known antibiotics.

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They hope to work with a pharmaceutical company or nonprofit to make the antibiotic available for use in humans one day.

Dr. Mallika Marshall