THE world is entering an era where patients going into hospital gamble with their lives and routine operations become too dangerous to carry out, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned.
There is a global crisis in antibiotics caused by rapidly evolving resistance among microbes responsible for common infections that threatens to turn them into untreatable diseases, said Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO.
Addressing a meeting of infectious disease experts in Copenhagen, she said that every antibiotic ever developed was at risk of becoming useless.
"A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child's scratched knee could once again kill."
She continued: "Antimicrobial resistance is on the rise in Europe, and elsewhere in the world. We are losing our first-line antimicrobials.
"Replacement treatments are more costly, more toxic, need much longer durations of treatment, and may require treatment in intensive care units.
"For patients infected with some drug-resistant pathogens, mortality has been shown to increase by around 50pc.
"Some sophisticated interventions, like hip replacements, organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy, and care of preterm infants, would become far more difficult or even too dangerous to undertake."
Britain has seen a 30pc rise in cases of blood poisoning caused by E. coli bacteria between 2005 and 2009, from 18,000 to more than 25,000 cases. Those resistant to antibiotics have risen from 1pc at the beginning of the century to 10pc.
The most powerful antibiotics are carbapenems, which are used as a last line of defence for the treatment of resistant infections.
In 2009, carbapenem-resistant K. pneumoniae, a bug present in the gut, were first detected in Greece but by the following year had spread to Italy, Austria, Cyprus and Hungary.
The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reported carbapenem-resistant K. pneumoniae had doubled from 7pc per cent to 15pc.