Experts warn that resistance to antibiotics is one of the greatest threats to modern health.
The warning from England’s chief medical officer and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) comes amid reports of growing problems with resistant strains of bugs such as E. coli and gonorrhea.
They said many antibiotics were being used unnecessarily for mild infections, helping to create resistance.
And they urged patients to take more care with how they used medicines.
This is particularly important as there are very few new antibiotics in development.
The chief medical officer, Prof. Dame Sally Davies, said: “Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at a rate that is both alarming and irreversible – similar to global warming.
“I urge patients and prescribers to think about the drugs they are requesting and dispensing.
“Bacteria are adapting and finding ways to survive the effects of antibiotics, ultimately becoming resistant so they no longer work.
“The more you use an antibiotic, the more bacteria become resistant to it.”
To reinforce her message, Dame Sally Davies has issued a list of “dos and don’ts”.
- Do remember antibiotics should be taken only when prescribed by a health professional.
- Do complete the prescribed course even if you feel better, as not taking the full course encourages the emergence of resistance.
- Don’t share antibiotics with anyone else.
- Do remember that antibiotics cannot help you recover from infections caused by viruses, such as colds or flu.