Warnings over rise of new superbugs
The UK has been warned by scientists of the rise of new superbugs resistant to the most powerful antibiotics.
Less than a handful of antibiotics are currently in the pipeline to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, with the worldwide spread of genes resistant to last-resort antibiotics a "nightmare scenario", the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
The body said abuse of antibiotics for humans and in the food chain is fostering the emergence of antibiotic resistance and threatening to take the world to an era before the discovery of penicillin in the 1920s.
Medical care could return to an age where simple infections do not respond to treatment and routine operations become life-threatening as a result of the reckless use of antibiotics, the WHO said in a campaign timed to coincide with World Health Day.
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 them patients linked to India. The enzyme destroys carbapenems, one of the major group of antibiotics used to treat difficult infections in hospital.
The figures have been released as new research was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal showing that disease causing bacteria carrying NDM-1 has 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.
"If resistance destroys that ability then the whole edifice of modern medicine crumbles. It's vital to grasp that fighting the emergence of resistance is fighting evolution itself.
"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."