Artificial Intelligence Breaks through Obstacles in Pediatric Care by Improving the Taste of Medicines

Artificial Intelligence Breaks through Obstacles in Pediatric Care by Improving the Taste of Medicines

Scientists at University College London are using artificial intelligence (AI) to address one of the major challenges in pediatric care – making medicines taste better. Poor taste is a significant barrier, not only affecting a child’s daily life but also their adherence to long-term medications like HIV antiretrovirals and antibiotics for tuberculosis. This problem often leads to treatment failure, complications, and contributes to antimicrobial resistance.

The team at University College London has developed an AI model that predicts the taste of medicines by analyzing data collected by an “electronic tongue.” This data is used to create chemical descriptors that determine taste and then map them out to predict levels of bitterness. The AI model also detects other taste qualities like salty, sweet, sour, umami, and astringent. However, the focus is mainly on bitterness and astringency since these tastes are less likely to be tolerated by patients.

The use of AI in this process speeds up the drug development process by eliminating the need for human taste trials in the early stages. Traditionally, drugs are assessed in a lab and rated for taste before undergoing taste trials, which is time-consuming and costly. The AI model being developed will be an open-access tool, allowing pharmaceutical development worldwide to benefit from the data on the palatability of commonly used drugs.

Taste plays a crucial role in adherence to long-term medications, especially for vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly. For example, children have a heightened sense of taste, making it even more challenging for them to take medications with unpleasant tastes. Studies have shown that many children perceive the “bad taste of medicines” as a barrier to adherence.

Improving the taste of medications is particularly important for diseases requiring lifelong treatment, such as HIV. If patients do not find the medicine palatable, they are less likely to adhere to their prescribed regimen, leading to treatment failure. Moreover, incomplete courses of antibiotics pose a significant risk of antimicrobial resistance.

By using AI to enhance the taste of medicines, the hope is to improve compliance and ultimately health outcomes for patients of all ages.

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