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.
The Chief Medical Officer has issued a stark warning about growing resistance to antibiotics, which she says poses a 'catastrophic threat'.Read the full story ›
I do not think I can recall a chief medical officer using language like this, phrases like 'catastrophic threat' and 'ticking time bomb' - you expect to see those in newspaper headlines, not coming from the mouth of the chief medical officer.
The fact that she now wants resistance to be put on the national risk register is an indication of how strongly she feels about it.
The importance of that is that it would encourage and allow the Government to raise it internationally because this is not really a problem that can be tackled just in Britain.
With international travel the way it is now, you can not do things just in Britain - there has to be a worldwide initiative especially to get new antibiotics or even totally different kinds of drugs coming along the pipeline.
Health risks over the resistance to antibiotics could take us back to the early nineteenth century, the Government's Chief Medical Officer has warned.
She added that infections, which we today see as routine and treatable, could once again become a serious threat.
Speaking to Daybreak, Dame Sally Davies said: "Now is the time to do something about it."
She added that the situation has been getting worse over the last ten years, and that companies are no longer producing, new forms of antibiotics.
Daybreak's Health Editor Dr Hilary said warnings over the UK's antibiotic resistance are a "huge concern."
He said there is a serious "amount of pressure on GPs to prescribe antibiotics for the most straight forward viral infections… pressure from patients."
Dr Hilary added, "GPs need to be tougher", in explaining why people do not need antibiotics to cure a common cold, or sore throat.
Today Dame Sally Davies, the Government's Chief Medical Officer has highlighted her concerns over the "ticking time-bomb" of antibiotic resistance.
Dame Sally Davies, the Government's Chief Medical Officer has described the "catastrophic threat" of the country's antibiotic resistance.
Speaking to Daybreak, members of the public said they felt antibiotics were given out too freely.
One man said: "I think we should hold onto them for the most serious cases."
Dame Sally Davies, the Government's Chief Medical Officer, has warned that routine operations could become deadly if the Government does not encourage more innovation in the development of antibiotics.
Professor Nigel Brown, president of the Society for General Microbiology, said:
Professor Dame Sally Davies rightly flags the issue of antimicrobial resistance to be of national and international concern. Urgent action is required by microbiologists and other scientists to identify and produce new antibiotics, and to tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance and its transmission.
Professor Christopher Thomas, professor of molecular genetics at the University of Birmingham, added:
While better surveillance, hygiene and restricted use of antibiotics can slow the spread of resistance we also need new ways to kill resistant bacteria or reduce their carriage of resistance genes.
Novel approaches that might have appeared unrealistic a few years ago need to be explored if they hold a chance of helping us tackle this issue.