The world faces a future where antibiotics are no longer effective as medicines, causing millions of deaths and costing the world economy trillions of dollars, England's chief medical offer has said.
Sally Davies told the Press Association we face a "dreadful post-antibiotic apocalypse" unless researchers can find a way to stop infection-resistant bugs.
"I don't want to say to my children that I didn't do my best to protect them and their children," she said.
Davies' comments came as ministers, scientists and industry met at a conference in Berlin to discuss how to speed up developments against drug-resistant infections, which could cause 10m deaths within a generation, costing economies $100 trillion.
“Superbugs will be a defining medical challenge of our age, and despite knowing about the problem for decades we have still not made enough progress to address it," said Davies.
"Political commitments and recognition are a huge first step. But this conference is about accelerating the tangible and concrete next steps so we can stay ahead of superbugs.”
Research by the Wellcome Trust has found only one in five of the 151 countries developing a plan to tackle the problem have committed to reducing antibiotic use, improving hygiene use and preserving antibiotics of last resort. Only five per cent are adequately funded.
“Political and societal recognition of the threat superbugs pose has definitely increased. But the progress is fragile," said Jeremy Farrarr, the Wellcome Trust's director.
"We need to make sure we all convert that welcome high-level commitment into real action that makes a tangible difference to people's lives. There is no doubt that together, we can stop the superbugs which could undermine the whole of modern medicine. But the impact is now and the time to act is now, we need to bring real urgency to this.”