The World Health Organization said on Monday that governments, scientists and pharmaceutical companies have to develop new antibiotics to fight a dozen dangerous families of bacteria that can resist deadly super-bugs.
The agency listed 12 groups of bacteria that no longer respond to an ever-growing list of ineffective antibiotics. It said these different bacteria are the greatest threats to human health.
Many of these "priority pathogens" have already evolved to be resistant to existing antibiotics. They can also allow other bacteria to become drug-resistant.
"Antibiotic resistance is growing, and we are fast running out of treatment options," said Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director-general of the WHO, which previously warned the world may be headed for a "post-antibiotic" era.
The list was meant to encourage governments to adopt policies and incentives to boost drug research and development by public and private entities, said Kieny.
If they invest now, she added, governments will need to spend less later "when resistance to antibiotics develops into an even deeper crisis."
Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which provides patient care in low-income and war-torn countries, agreed there was a critical need for new drugs.