Antimicrobial resistance is the broader term for resistance in different types of microorganisms (eg, bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi). It encompasses resistance 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. Medical procedures such as surgery could become extremely difficult, or even impossible, due to antimicrobial resistance. Common infections may become untreatable, which could lead to death.
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.
What ESR is doing for AMR in New Zealand
ESR is contracted by the Ministry of Health to undertake an extensive surveillance programme and other activities related to combatting antimicrobial resistance. The Antibiotic Reference Laboratory at ESR is responsible for the national surveillance of antimicrobial resistance among human pathogens. Data from various surveillance systems and sources is used to compile national antimicrobial resistance data.
ESR was also contracted by the Ministry of Health to establish and provide support to the New Zealand Microbiology Network.
In 2017 ESR staff were part of the team that produced the Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan. This plan was jointly developed by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Primary Industries and representatives from across the human health, animal health and agriculture sectors. The plan is based on the "One Health' approach, with coordinated national action to minimise the impacts of antimicrobial resistance on New Zealand and beyond.
Read more about how to use antibiotics in the right way.