The impending failure of antibiotics to treat life-threatening diseases could cause a social and economic “apocalypse” in Britain and throughout the first world, scientists warn. Medical experts predict many dangerous diseases will become completely resistant to antibiotics in the near future, causing social unrest on an unprecedented level. The crisis could result in people barricading themselves into enclaves as the health system collapses under the strain of chronic diseases, scientist Adam Roberts told the British Science Festival last week.

The senior lecturer in microbial disease at University College London warned the failure of antibiotics could result in wars and civil unrest and people fight over medical treatments. A briefing paper prepared for the government and Wellcome Trust warns that huge advances against diseases made possible since the discovery of penicillin could be temporary. “Resistance to antibiotics has now become a major concern because doctors are left with fewer effective treatments for serious and life-threatening infections,” the authors write. “It is becoming clear that the success of conventional antibiotics may have only been temporary and we now anticipate a long-term, generational challenge to find new therapies as fast as bacteria become resistant to them. Worse, the search for new conventional antibiotics has become far less productive.” FULL REPORT