The world is on the cusp of a “post-antibiotic era”, scientists have warned after finding bacteria resistant to drugs used when all other treatments have failed.
They identified bacteria able to shrug off the drug of last resort – colistin – in patients and livestock in China.
They said that resistance would spread around the world and raised the spectre of untreatable infections.
It is likely resistance emerged after colistin was overused in farm animals.
Bacteria becoming completely resistant to treatment – also known as the antibiotic apocalypse – could plunge medicine back into the dark ages.
Common infections would kill once again, while surgery and cancer therapies, which are reliant on antibiotics, would be under threat.
Chinese scientists identified a new mutation, dubbed the MCR-1 gene, that prevented colistin from killing bacteria.
The report in the Lancet Infectious Diseases showed resistance in a fifth of animals tested, 15% of raw meat samples and in 16 patients.