The threat posed by antibiotic resistance should be ranked alongside terrorism on a list of threats to the nation, the Government's Chief Medical Officer has said.
The problem is a "ticking time-bomb" and should be put on the Government's National Risk Register - which also includes "catastrophic terrorist attacks" and other civil emergencies, Professor Dame Sally Davies said.
Routine operations such as hip replacements could become deadly in just 20 years time if we lose the ability to fight infection, she said. Dame Sally said the problem is "as important as climate change for the world" and urged the Government to raise the issue when meeting political leaders at the G8 summit in London next month.
In her latest report, Dame Sally sets out a call for action about how to tackle the "catastrophic threat". She called for better protection of our current stock of antibiotics, better incentives for the pharmaceutical industry to develop new drugs and asked ministers to ensure the issue is placed on the register.
The register sets out an assessment of the likelihood and potential impact of a range of different risks that may affect the UK. It is also designed to increase awareness about the types of threats and help government, individuals and other organisations to think about their own preparedness.
Her report states: "There is a need for politicians in the UK to prioritise antimicrobial resistance as a major area of concern, including on the national risk register (specifically the National Security Risk Assessment) and pushing for action internationally as well as in local healthcare services.
"Antimicrobial resistance is a ticking time-bomb not only for the UK but also for the world. We need to work with everyone to ensure the apocalyptic scenario of widespread antimicrobial resistance does not become a reality. This threat is arguably as important as climate change for the world."
Dame Sally said: "Antimicrobial resistance poses a catastrophic threat. If we don't act now, any one of us could go into hospital in 20 years for minor surgery and die because of an ordinary infection that can't be treated by antibiotics. And routine operations like hip replacements or organ transplants could be deadly because of the risk of infection.
"That's why governments and organisations across the world, including the World Health Organisation and G8, need to take this seriously.
"This is not just about government action. We need to encourage more innovation in the development of antibiotics - over the past two decades there has been a discovery void around antibiotics, meaning diseases have evolved faster than the drugs to treat them."