One in seven patients can no longer be helped by antibiotics because they are increasingly ineffective after being handed out too freely by GPs, it emerged last night.
Experts warn that the deepening problem could be fatal for a significant number of Britons with common but potentially life-threatening infections.
For some infections, the failure rate was one in three. Overall, it has increased by 12 per cent in 22 years as the number of prescriptions has steadily increased.
For infections such as pneumonia, which commonly affects the elderly, the consequences are fatal.
Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer, has already warned the problem is so severe that routine hip operations, caesarean sections and even minor scratches could become deadly.
It has been declared a public health crisis by the World Health Organisation.
The issue has been caused by GPs prescribing antibiotics too readily, sometimes for viruses such as coughs and colds for which they are ineffective. Vets have also been using the medication too widely on animals.
As a result, the bacteria that make humans ill have evolved to become resistant to treatments that used to kill them.
Drug firms have also not produced more effective antibiotics because they are not deemed profitable.
Researchers from the University of Cardiff looked at the records of almost 11 million patients prescribed antibiotics between 1991 and 2012 for sinusitis, sore throats, skin infections, bronchitis and pneumonia.
For 15.4 per cent of patients given an antibiotic in 2012, it did not work. The failure rate was only 13.9 per cent in 1991.
In cases of bronchitis and pneumonia which can be deadly this rate can be as high as 35 per cent, or one in three.
Professor Craig Currie, of Cardiff Universitys School of Medicine, said: The growing ineffectiveness of antibiotics is very worrying. We need to minimise unnecessary or inappropriate treatment which could be fuelling microbial resistance to antibiotics, prolonging illness and in some cases killing people.
People are given antibiotics inappropriately. We cant always test whether its due to a virus or bug, so antibiotics are a fallback.
Dame Sally said: The research shows the urgent need to develop new antibiotics, something this Government is looking to address through a review on anti-microbial resistance commissioned by the Prime Minister.
The study also found that the number of patients given antibiotics had risen from 60 per cent in 1991 to 65 per cent in 2012.
GPs cannot test whether a sore throat or a rash is caused by bacteria or a virus, which cannot be treated by antibiotics. But when put under pressure by patients they may prescribe them in the hope they will work.
There are thought to be 25,000 deaths a year in Europe from infections caused by bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.
Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said:
Antibiotic resistance is one of the major global health concerns we face.
While it is not surprising that the amount of resistant infections has increased, the sheer numbers are of great concern.
Too few children given 5-in-1 jab
Not enough children are receiving vital vaccinations that protect against serious infections and illnesses.
In the past year in England, 94.3 per cent of children who turned one were given the so-called five-in-one jabs to protect against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).
This falls below the 95 per cent recommended by the World Health Organisation.
The HSCICs latest statistics on immunisation also show that just 92.7 per cent of children reaching their second birthday had received the MMR jab, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.
Even though this coverage is at its highest since the vaccine was introduced in 1988, England still remains below the WHO minimum of 95 per cent.
HSCIC said coverage in England was below that of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for all routine childhood vaccines at the ages of one, two and five. Across the country, it was lowest in London.
Source Mail Online