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ESR expert Kristin Dyet contributes to PM Chief Science Advisor report

04 March 2022

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

ESR is proud to see a cornerstone report about infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance has been published by the Office of the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor, with input from ESR Senior Scientist Dr Kristin Dyet.

Kristin was part of the expert panel behind the report Kotahitanga Uniting Aotearoa against infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance, joining other eminent New Zealand scientists.

"This report is timely. It sets out a path to change our approach in Aotearoa, to ensure we use the right antimicrobial in the right place at the right time. It clearly lays out the challenges posed by infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance," Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern notes.

With six pillars, the report highlights the cultural, environmental, and economic burdens associated with pathogens and resistance and how these can be addressed:

  1. Evaluate and expand antimicrobial stewardship,
  2. Develop an integrated surveillance and outbreak response system,
  3. Strengthen infection prevention and control,
  4. Grown New Zealand's infectious diseases capability and engage internationally,
  5. Enhance health literacy, and
  6. Reimagine primary care.

Kristin emphasises the importance of surveillance in achieving the report's goals.

"To understand the risks posed by infectious diseases, we need to understand the current landscape we are living in and how things keep changing over time. Data from surveillance platforms helps us understand this landscape.

"In New Zealand, surveillance of infectious diseases in humans is undertaken, although there are gaps in our knowledge and surveillance is not routinely conducted in animals, plants, or the environment. Our vision is to establish an integrated surveillance system that brings together information on microbes including drug-resistant microbes across human, animal, and plant health.

"This will provide us with enhanced information to detect emerging microbes early and to inform the implementation of public health interventions, which reduce the burden of infectious diseases including those from outbreaks."

Like the name of the report reflects – kotahitanga – the only way we can truly address antimicrobial resistance and infectious diseases is by working together, and across human, animal and plant health.

Antimicrobial resistance has been a key area of interest for the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor Professor Dame Juliet Gerrard since she assumed the role in 2018. For Kristin's work to be recognised at this level is a significant achievement, and something ESR is proud to celebrate.

As the Prime Minister notes: "I welcome the expert panel's recommendations and thank them for providing a clear path forward for Aotearoa to unite against infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance."

But why should we not lose sight of infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance?

"Imagine a future where there was a reasonable chance of not surviving minor surgery, as people experienced throughout much of history: patients dying not because of the surgical procedure itself but because they contracted a postoperative infection.

"We've grown-up in an age where antibiotics manage a whole host of infections and diseases that otherwise could be fatal. It's thanks to antimicrobial medication that we've been able to tackle these illnesses and grow communities.

"But we must remember how precious antimicrobial agents like antibiotics are, and use them with the respect they deserve. This means not using antibiotics unless they're prescribed by a doctor and using them as directed and until the course is complete.

"Now more than ever science is front and centre as the tool we need to tackle the biggest issues, like climate change and COVID. It's an honour to have our expertise in infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance recognised by the Prime Minister, and it was a privilege to be involved in preparing a report that highlights this hugely important issue," Kristin says.

You can watch a video featuring the Prime Minister and panellists discussing the report here.

And click here to read an overview of the report.