Led by Eric Brown, the researchers have identified a novel chemical compound that targets drug-resistant bacteria in a different way from existing antibiotics.
The discovery could lead to new treatments to overcome antibiotic resistance in certain types of microorganisms.
"Everyone reads the headlines about drug-resistant bugs, it's a big problem," Nature quoted Brown, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Antimicrobial Research, as saying.
"Really what we're trying to do is understand whether or not there are new ways to tackle this problem," he added.
The research team, which included biochemists and chemists from McMaster University, used high-throughput screening to uncover the new class of chemical.
With the new approach scientists could look for small molecules that kill bacteria as well as examine the molecular mechanisms and pathways they exploit.
Existing antibiotics destroy bacteria by blocking production of its cell wall, DNA or protein.
The newly discovered compound, MAC13243, is directed at blocking a particular step in the development of the bacteria's cell surface, which until now has not been recognized as a target for antibiotics.
"We're excited about finding a new probe of a relatively uncharted part of bacterial physiology. It's a new way of thinking about the problem. Who knows, could this chemical become a drug? Anything's possible. But at the very least we've advanced the field and created some tools that people can use now to try to better understand this pathway," said Brown.
The findings of the study have been published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.