The world is drawing closer to a “post-antibiotic era” after bacteria resistant to last-resort drugs are discovered in China.

The report in the Lancet Infectious Diseases identified bacteria resistant to the antibiotic colistin in patients and livestock.

Most worryingly, the new mutation is able to be easily shared between bacteria. There is already evidence that it has spread to Laos and Malaysia.

Professor Timothy Walsh from the University of Cardiff, who collaborated on the study, told the BBC: "If this mutation becomes global, which is a case of when not if, and the gene aligns itself with other antibiotic resistance genes, which is inevitable, then we will have very likely reached the start of the post-antibiotic era.”

In a statement to coincide with European Antibiotic Awareness Day on November 18, the EMA reinforced its strategy to fighting resistance.

“To advise policy makers on the best way to tackle antimicrobial resistance, robust scientific data on how antimicrobials are used across the EU and how resistance emerges and transfers are needed,” the regulator said. “This requires close cooperation between the various European agencies that have responsibilities in this area.”

The regulator hopes to create an environment that stimulates and facilitates the development of innovative antimicrobials through the use of guidance and workshops. 

The latest results on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) published by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) show that the situation is worsening for most bacteria and antibiotics under surveillance.

In at least 3 countries (Italy, Greece and Malta) the resistance to last-line antibiotics has become an “endemic problem”, meaning their hospitals are unable to treat patients infected with resistant bacteria.

But for the first time data shows a significant decrease in antibiotic consumption in the local community in five European countries (Denmark, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden), even if antibiotic consumption in the hospital sector is still increasing.

Commenting on the report, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis said: "The ECDC results show the threat of antibiotic resistance is increasing day by day. If left unchecked, it has the capacity to turn the clock back on medicine by a hundred years."

In Europe alone, infections caused by multidrug-resistant bacteria are estimated to kill 25,000 people every year.