Employing supercomputers to fight antibiotic resistance
Approximately 700,000 people are estimated to die due to infection by antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year, with this number expected to rise into the millions in coming years. Without effective antibiotics, life expectancy could drop by 20 years, prompting urgent efforts to develop new antibiotics faster than microbes can mutate and form new defences.
A team of international researchers, co-led by the University of Portsmouth’s Dr Gerhard Koenig, are using supercomputers to fight the threat of antibiotic resistance. The scientists are redesigning existing antibiotics to keep up with the changing nature of infection.
The computational approach simulates multiple aspects of a redesigned antibiotic at once, such as solubility, effectiveness at penetrating the bacteria, and effectiveness at blocking bacterial protein production.
The goal of the study is to demonstrate that bacterial resistance mechanisms can be addressed in a systematic way, enabling scientists to keep ahead of the changing infections with a computational evolution of new antibiotics.
“Our computers are becoming faster with every year,” said Koenig. “So, there is some hope that we will be able to turn the tide. If computers can beat the world champion in chess, I don’t see why they should not also be able to defeat bacteria.”