Call over 'antibiotic Armageddon'
An "antibiotic Armageddon" could result in a superbug death toll of more than a million across Europe by 2025, experts have warned.
According to the latest evidence, 400,000 people have already died since the emergence of large-scale antibiotic resistance in the last decade.
This figure is set to more than double in the next 10 years, say scientists from t he European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (Escmid).
Murat Akova, president of Escmid, said: "The really worrying aspect is that no one yet really knows just how great this problem is. The real issue is that all the existing antibiotics we have are becoming less effective as people continue to use them unnecessarily.
"Deaths in the UK alone could very easily triple over the next 10-years. But focusing only on the death toll by antimicrobial resistance obfuscates the gigantic problem of not being able to offer patients many of the modern healthcare victories.
"The rapid increase in antimicrobial resistance in Europe and the world is jeopardising modern healthcare. And resistance is spreading to the UK from across other European nations."
Escmid issued its warning on the eve of its annual conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, next week.
The forecast is based on the latest available data on infection deaths and known rates of microbial resistance in different parts of Europe.
In the UK alone, infections already claim around 10,000 lives each year, said Escmid.
Only a handful of new antibiotics have been developed in the last few decades as new drugs with novel formulations are becoming increasingly difficult to produce.
The problem for existing drugs is that the more they are used, the less effective they become, the experts point out.
They argue that governments and the pharma and healthcare industries have not responded quickly enough to the emerging crisis.
In the last few decades, the number of antibiotics effective against any particular infection has reduced from 15 to just two or three. In some cases, no effective drugs are left.
A poll of 1,685 adults commissioned by Escmid found that 45% do not fully understand the consequences of growing resistance to a string of common antibiotics.
Yet one-in-three said they were "quite worried" or" very worried" about antibiotic resistance.
Awareness of the dangers of "superbugs" was much higher, with 37% of those questioned fearful of catching infectious diseases in hospitals.