Scientists have warned the UK about the overuse of antibiotics.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the worldwide spread of genes resistant to last resort antibiotics is a “nightmare scenario”.
It warned there are less than a handful of antibiotics in the pipeline which could fight antibiotic resistant bacteria.
The body said abuse of antibiotics for humans and amounts in the food chain were fostering the emergence of antibiotic resistance and threatening to take the world to an era before the discovery of penicillin in the 1920s.
Every year an estimated 25,000 people die of antibiotic resistant bacterial infections in the European Union region, mostly acquired in hospital, the WHO said.
The warning comes as the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said it had recorded 88 cases of bacteria with NDM-1 - short for New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamose after the place where it was identified - in the UK so far, with most of the patients linked to India.
The figures have been released as new research was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal showing that disease causing bacteria carrying NDM-1 have been discovered in New Delhi’s drinking water supply.
Dr David Livermore, director of the HPA antibiotic resistance monitoring and reference laboratory, said: “So much of modern medicine - from gut surgery to cancer treatment, to transplants - depends on our ability to treat infection.
“To keep ahead it is vital that we conserve what antibiotics we have - using them carefully and prudently - and that pharmaceutical companies and regulators support the development and licensing of new antibiotics,” he said.
- Walsh TR, et al. Dissemination of NDM-1 positive bacteria in the New Delhi environment and its implications for human health: an environmental point prevalence study. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. Advance online publication.
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