McMaster’s fight against ‘public enemy number one’ makes global headlines


“There’s a war going on, and most of us can’t even see it.”

That’s how TIME magazine’s Alice Park began her coverage of McMaster’s groundbreaking discovery of a fungus that can disarm drug-resistant pathogens.

The June 25 announcement, made by Gerry Wright, director of McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, has made headlines across the country and around the world.

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A team of researchers led by McMaster has discovered a fungus-derived molecule, known as AMA, which is able to disarm one of the most dangerous antibiotic-resistance genes:  NDM-1.

News of Wright’s discovery has been reported by The Wall Street JournalGlobe and Mail, National Post, CBC, Toronto Star, Global and Australian national newspaper The Australian.

The attention comes for good reason: a molecule derived from the fungus is able to disarm one of the most dangerous antibiotic-resistant genes, known as NDM-1.

NDM-1 has been identified by the World Health Organization as a global public health threat. Wright calls it “public enemy number one.”

“It came out of nowhere, it has spread everywhere and has basically killed our last resource of antibiotics, the last pill on the shelf, used to treat serious infections,” he says.

Discovering the properties of the fungus-derived molecule is critical becaue it can provide a means to target and rapidly block the drug-resistant pathogens that render carbapenem antibiotics – a class of drugs similar to penicillin – ineffective.

“Simply put, the molecule knocks out NDM-1 so the antibiotics can do their job,” says Wright.