A radical new approach in needed urgently to counter the growing threat posed by superbugs resistant to antibiotics, experts have warned.

The rise in untreatable infections poses "arguably the greatest risk" to human health, according to the World Economic Forum.

A manifesto by leading experts in infectious disease calls for the re-writing of regulations governing the use of antibiotics and the conduct of clinical trials, as well as a change in the way infections are treated.

Writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, the doctors warned that antibiotic-resistant microbes "spread rapidly, even in such seemingly harmless places as high school locker rooms, where they infect young athletes, and they can make mundane urinary or intestinal infections life-threatening".

They added: "At the same time, the development of new antibiotics to treat these infections is plummeting, leading to our call for entirely new approaches to the problem".

The answer is not "incremental tweaking" of existing policies and processes," said doctors Brad Spellberg, John Bartlett and David Gilbert. Instead, they edcall for stricter rules on the prescription of antibiotics, whose overuse is fuelling the growth of resistance. They say smaller, less expensive clinical trials of new antibiotics should be allowed to promote development of new drugs.

They said new approaches to treatment should be developed as an alternative to attacking the bacteria that cause them, such as finding ways to reduce the inflammation caused by the infection.

"The converging crises of increasing resistance and collapse of antibiotic research and development are the predictable results of policies and processes we have used to deal with infections for 75 years," they say.

The UK's Chief Medical Officer has previously warned that the decreasing effectiveness of antibiotics is "alarming and irreversible".

Britain's Chief Medial Officer, Dame Sally Davies, has warned that the decreasing effectiveness of antibiotics is "alarming and irreversible".