In 1928, Penicillin was heralded as a breakthrough technology to curb deadly bacteria but it appears growing immunity to antibiotics is causing a resurgence.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) lists antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the top 10 health threats to humankind, recording 1.3 million deaths annually.
By 2050, WHO estimates deaths will reach 10 million per year and cost of $100 trillion to the global economy.
Sydney University lecturer on child and adolescent health Dr Ameneh Khatami said: "We should be paying close attention if we don't want to have a significant health crisis in the near future."
The COVID-19 lockdowns helped Australia stabilise, or decrease, AMR bacteria by limiting travel and reducing antibiotic prescriptions in the community.
Australia's neighbours, India and China, are facing major AMR challenges as resistant bacteria proliferates in Asia with 60,000 newborns dying annually in India due to antibiotic resistant neonatal infections.
Dr Khatami said "if it's a problem somewhere else it will be a problem for us, bacteria doesn't recognise borders."
IN OTHER NEWS:
Scientists are developing antibiotic 'sibling drugs' as stop-gap measures in the battle against AMR but 'phage' technology was a promising field of study that had remained largely unexamined, she said.
Phages are found abundantly in the natural world as fatal viruses for bacteria but do not affect human microbiomes.
"We can identify the right phages to treat infections and we sidestep a lot of the problems we have with antibiotics," Dr Khatami said.
Australia was experiencing a shortage of AMR researchers because antibiotics research was not seen as lucrative.
Infectious diseases physician and Canberra Hospital Professor Peter Collignon said "people are getting out of antibiotic research because there's more money in developing other drugs".
"It's important we invest the time, research and money to develop novel therapeutics," he said.
Australia was limiting antibiotic resistance in hospitals and communities by strict hygiene practices, clean water and sanitation to control interpersonal spreading.
It's believed more responsible uses of antibiotics would limit overflow into the environment, stopping bacteria from forming resistances.
"Australia needs to put in processes but we also need to take a leadership position in the region and globally," Dr Khatami said.
Infection control and limited antibiotic use would preserve the effectiveness of drugs like penicillin for the next generation, she said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.