How quickly can we predict trimethoprim resistance using alchemical free energy methods?: Predicting antimicrobial resistance
The emergence of antimicrobial resistance threatens modern medicine and necessitates more personalized treatment of bacterial infections. Sequencing the whole genome of the pathogen(s) in a clinical sample offers one way to improve clinical microbiology diagnostic services, and has already been adopted for tuberculosis in some countries. A key weakness of a genetics clinical microbiology is it cannot return a result for rare or novel genetic variants and therefore predictive methods are required. Non-synonymous mutations in the S. aureus dfrB gene can be successfully classified as either conferring resistance (or not) by calculating their effect on the binding free energy of the antibiotic, trimethoprim. The underlying approach, alchemical free energy methods, requires large numbers of molecular dynamics simulations to be run. We show that a large number (N = 15) of binding free energies calculated from a series of very short (50 ps) molecular dynamics simulations are able to satisfactorily classify all seven mutations in our clinically derived testset. A result for a single mutation could therefore be returned in less than an hour, thereby demonstrating that this or similar methods are now sufficiently fast and reproducible for clinical use.