News Reports & Publications

McMaster Researchers Find New Way to Treat Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria

Lindsey Carfrae, the lead author on the publication, is a PhD candidate within Dr. Eric Brown’s lab at McMaster University.

Author: Christy Groves

October 31, 2019 – Researchers at McMaster have discovered a novel target for new antibiotics, a recent paper in Nature Microbiology describes.

The research, led by senior author and professor Dr. Eric Brown at the David Braley Centre for Antibiotic Discovery, found that inhibiting the production of a vitamin called biotin within mouse models mimicking the human environment was effective in treating infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The team mimicked the human environment in a mouse model to confirm biotin biosynthesis as an overlooked antibiotic target for Gram-negative pathogens.

“Multi-drug resistant bacteria are often able to make their own biotin, which is essential for their growth and survival,” said Lindsey Carfrae, lead author and PhD candidate in the Brown lab. “However, because mice naturally have about 40 times more biotin present in their blood than humans, it’s been too difficult up until now to study biotin synthesis’s potential as a drug target.”

The team developed a novel mouse model that mimicked the lower levels of biotin found in humans, and then inhibited the bacteria’s ability to make their own biotin. They found that starving the bacteria of this essential vitamin was enough to get rid of the drug-resistant infection.

“Our research shows the exciting potential of a new class of previously overlooked antibiotics” Lindsey adds. Such innovations are essential given the current rise in antimicrobial resistance across the globe.

This research was supported by a Foundation grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, a donation from the Boris Family Foundation, and by funding from the Ontario Research Fund Research Excellence program.



Dr. Eric Brown is a Distinguished University Professor at McMaster University in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences and a member of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research.

Dr. Eric Brown will describe this and other works during McMaster’s 2019 Gairdner Symposium on November 15th, entitled “Fuelling the Fight Against Antimicrobial Resistance: Global Innovations in Research & Discovery”. Visit to find out more about the Symposium and to register.

Read the behind the sciences paper here.


Christy Groves