The World Antibiotic Awareness week kicks off Monday, 13 November with activities planned to raise awareness of this very important issue across many countries.
Antimicrobial resistance is the broader term for resistance in different types of microorganisms (eg, bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi) to antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic and antifungal drugs. Antimicrobial resistance is a major concern because resistant infections can spread to others, imposing huge costs to individuals and society.
The theme for this year’s World Antibiotic Awareness week from the World Health Organization (WHO) is seek advice from a qualified health care professional before taking antibiotics.
ESR has a strong interest in antimicrobial resistance to antibiotics as the ESR Antibiotic Reference Laboratory is responsible for the national surveillance of antimicrobial resistance among human pathogens.
Data is gathered and analysed from a number of different sources including from routine diagnostic antimicrobial susceptibility testing conducted in hospital and community laboratories and testing of bacterial isolates that are referred to ESR for further investigation, such as Salmonella, and invasive isolates of Streptococcus pneumonia (Pneumonia), Neisseria meningitides (meningitis) and Haemophilus influenza (Type B - causes invasive disease in babies and children). The information is published on the Public Health Surveillance website. (external link) (external link) When microorganisms become resistant to most antimicrobials, they are often referred to as ‘superbugs’.
New Zealand’s rate of antimicrobial resistance is comparatively low, particularly when compared to countries in neighbouring regions such as South-East Asia. However, New Zealand should not become complacent, as there has been a rise in antimicrobial resistance to some types of infections and we have increasing antimicrobial use.
In August 2017, New Zealand began implementing a five-year Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan (external link) (external link) to minimise the impact of antimicrobial resistance to human, animal and plant health. The Ministry of Health and Ministry for Primary Industries are working with a wide range of groups and organisations on action plan activities covering five different areas: awareness and understanding; surveillance and research; infection prevention and control; antimicrobial stewardship; and governance, collaboration and investment. ESR was part of the group that helped develop the plan.
Antibiotics are a precious resource, so it is important to get the right advice before taking them. This not only ensures people get the best treatment, but responsible use of antibiotics will also help reduce the threat of antibiotic resistance.
Read more about ESR's Antimicrobial Resistance programme.