The world is heading for a "post-antibiotic age" that threatens a "global health crisis" , the head of a leading medical charity has warned.
Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust said the problem arose from "drug-resistant bacteria, viruses and parasites".
"It threatens not only our ability to treat deadly infections, but almost every aspect of modern medicine: from cancer treatment to Caesarean sections, therapies that save thousands of lives every day rely on antibiotics that could soon be lost, " he warned.
Mr Farrar warned that not enough new drugs are being developed to replace ones that are no longer efffective.
At the same time he welcomed a new initiative, backed by David Cameron, to set up an international panel looking at how best to facilitate the development of new treatments.
The rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs risks sending medicine back into the "dark ages", David Cameron has warned.
He stressed the importance of investing in a new generation of antibiotics, describing the emergence of superbugs as "a very real and worrying threat" that is "happening right now".
"If we fail we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine where treatable infections and injuries will kill once again," he told The Times.
The UK will take a leading role in the fight against a new type of antibiotic-resistant superbug, David Cameron has said.
Mr Cameron says his scientific experts have said superbugs are among "the most serious health problems the world faces".
"When we've had these problems in the past, whether it is how we tackle HIV and Aids, how it is possible to lead the world and get rid of diseases like polio, Britain has taken a lead and I think it is right we take a lead again," he told The Times (£).
The paper also reports that the Prime Minister raised the issue in private talks with Barack Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 last month.
An international group of experts has been established to help stimulate the development of a "new generation of antibiotics".
The panel will be led by Jim O'Neill, the former chief economist at investment bank Goldman Sachs, who has been tasked with working out how governments could pay pharmaceutical companies to produce rarely used drugs.
The Department of Health said it is aware "urgent action" must be taken to control resistance to antibiotics or "we could face serious problems in years to come"
A spokeswoman said:
That is why the UK is working with WHO and international bodies to support global action.
The development of new antibiotics is key and we are identifying opportunities to promote this.
We have active programmes in all these areas, which together will help us stay one step ahead both nationally and internationally.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said despite the "incredibly exciting age" we live in, the market is "not set up to incentivise the production of new types of medicines".
RPS chief scientist Professor Jayne Lawrence said: "The current crisis in antimicrobial resistance is in part due to the lack of new classes of antibiotics coming on the market.
"Antibiotics can cure infections in weeks, so the volume of sales of drugs is low. This doesn't allow the tens or even hundreds of millions required for research and development to be recouped.
"Unless we find a way to develop treatments that cure illnesses in months, rather than treat symptoms for years, we will not see the breakthroughs that both scientists and patients want."
Big drug companies have little incentive to develop new antibiotics despite huge concerns about resistance to the drugs, according to a group of leading pharmacists.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said the prospect of creating new drugs was "low due to the poor return on investment they provide".
The RPS said in its latest report that more must be done to support the discovery of new antibiotics.
It also called for the public to become more educated on the use of the medicines and better management of the drugs by healthcare workers.
Bacteria resistant to antibiotics have spread to every part of the world and might lead to a future where minor infections could kill, says a new report.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) described antibiotic resistance as a "major threat" to public health and warned that "the implications will be devastating".
"The world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill," said Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security.
The WHO said it found very high rates of drug-resistant E. coli bacteria, with treatment for the bug useless in more than half of patients in some countries.
The report also found worrying rates of resistance in other bacteria, including common causes of pneumonia and gonorrhoea.
At least 10 countries - including Britain - now report having patients with gonorrhoea that is totally untreatable.
Drug resistance is driven by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, which encourages bacteria to develop new ways of overcoming them.
The WHO said people should only use antibiotics when prescribed by a doctor, that they should complete the full prescription and never share antibiotics with others or use leftover prescriptions.
Health care must be "re-engineered" to avoid the devastating threat of antibiotic resistance, health experts have warned in a report in The Lancet.
Scientists described a 'looming global threat of antibiotic resistance' that is leading to medical, social and economic setbacks unless "global coordinated actions" are taken immediately.
Our overuse and over-reliance on antibiotics has created a catastrophic threat to the population, the government's chief medical officer warned today.
Dame Sally Davies said drug-resistant infections could turn back time to the early nineteenth century when patients risked dying from routine operations.
ITV News' Medical Editor Lawrence McGinty reports:
Dr Nick Brown, consultant microbiologist at Addenbrooke's Hospital, has warned that doctors need to "manage the expectations" of patients to limit the prescription of antibiotics to necessary cases.
He said that the use of antibiotics "underpins all of medicine" and that some degree of resistance is inevitable, but that the rate could be slowed down.