News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


Good news in fight against antibiotic resistance

Media release

Good news in New Zealand’s fight against antibiotic resistance

Rates of an antibiotic-resistant superbug have levelled off in New Zealand while continuing to climb elsewhere in the world, according to figures released by ESR, the Institute of Environmental Science and Research.

ESR senior scientist Helen Heffernan released the figures at the launch of the annual Wise Use of Antibiotics campaign. The objective of this PHARMAC-led campaign is to remind New Zealanders to use antibiotics responsibly.

Helen Heffernan says the figures show that New Zealand’s overall rates of antibiotic resistance are often better than countries such as Australia, the UK and the USA. “These figures show we may be making gains in specific areas, for example, in the incidence rates of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA.”

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) are antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can cause serious infections and because of their resistance are particularly difficult and expensive to treat. MRSA bacteria are especially dangerous to vulnerable people such as hospital patients and the elderly.

In New Zealand the rapidly increasing rates of MRSA have now halted, while in other countries these rates continue to grow. Most recent figures show that Australia’s rates are almost twice those recorded in New Zealand. Rates in the UK are more than five times greater and rates in the USA are more than seven times higher.

While the rates of all MRSA bacteria in New Zealand have levelled off, the occurrence of the most common strain of MRSA in the community has decreased over the last five years, she says.

Dr Peter Moodie, PHARMAC’s medical director, says this is really good news for New Zealand, as MRSA bacteria are a huge cost to individual patients’ health and the health care sector in general.

Peter Moodie says a key contributor to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is unnecessary use of antibiotics. “The annual Wise Use of Antibiotics campaign has been a valuable tool in the broader fight against antibiotic resistance. This campaign reminds people every year that these drugs are only effective against bacterial infections, and they do not kill the viruses causing colds and the flu.” [more]
The campaign also emphasises the importance of people visiting their doctor if they are in any doubt about their illness. For many people, this has been made easier through the introduction of PHOs, he says.

Research following the Wise Use of Antibiotics campaign in 2005 showed that more than 80% of New Zealanders were more informed about using antibiotics sensibly. Over the seven years of the campaign, there has been 12% decrease in the number of antibiotic prescriptions in New Zealand. However, last year prescriptions rose slightly by 4%.

While the picture in New Zealand is generally good, the high rates of resistance and continuing resistance of some bacteria continue to cause concerns. The rates of the antibiotic-resistant pneumococccal bacteria, which commonly cause sinusitis, bronchitis and pneumonia, remain a problem area, Helen Heffernan says.

For these reasons, she warns that continued vigilance with antibiotic use is necessary.

The Wise Use of Antibiotics is supported by the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, Plunket, the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand, doctors groups and PHOs around New Zealand.


[1] Rates are based on the percentage of Staphylococcus aureus found to have methicillin resistance: New Zealand 8% (2004), Australia 15% (2004), UK 44% (2004), USA 59% (2003).

Attached is a bar graph showing the number of people in New Zealand from whom MRSA was isolated between 1990 and 2005.

Figure 1

Click to enlarge

Please note: no survey was undertaken in 1999.

© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Howard Davis Review: From Free Press to Fancy Dress - Spielberg's The Post

Stephen Spielberg's The Post is an opportune newsroom drama in which a corrupt Republican president wages war against the "liberal media," as its plucky proprietor risks economic and legal ruin to bring the Pentagon Papers to public light. Its true protagonist is publisher Katharine Graham, a stringently diplomatic businesswoman, reluctantly compelled to take an overtly political stance in the interests of democracy and freedom of the press. More>>

Howard Davis Review: The Black Dog of Empire - Joe Wright's Darkest Hour'

On the eve of England's contorted efforts to negotiate its ignominious retreat from Europe and the chaotic spectacle of the Tory party ratifying its undignified departure from a union originally designed to prevent another World War, there has been a renewed appetite for movies about 1940. More>>

Howard Davis Review: Anger Begets Anger - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

For fans of what Ricky Gervais termed "number movies" (Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven, Ocean's 11, Se7en), Martin McDonagh's latest offering will be a welcome addition to the roster. The Irish playwright turned screenwriter and director has produced another quirky and darkly comic tragedy that evolves around the futility of anger and grief, retribution and revenge. More>>

Howard Davis: Sexting in George Dawe's Genevieve - Part I

Te Papa's permanent collection includes an enormous oil painting by the English artist George Dawe called Genevieve (from by a poem by S.T. Coleridge entitled 'Love') that was prominently featured in the 2013 exhibition Angels & Aristocrats. Compare the massive immensity of the bard's gorgeously gilded harp with the stubby metallic handle of the Dark Knight's falchion, both suggestively positioned at crotch-level. Dawe's enormous canvas invokes a whole history of blushing that pivots around a direct connection to sexual arousal. More>>


Ethnomusicology: Malian ‘Desert Blues’ Revolutionaries To Storm WOMAD

Malian band Tinariwen (playing WOMAD NZ in March 2018) are a true musical revolutionaries in every sense. Active since 1982, these nomadic Tuareg or ‘Kel Tamashek’ (speakers of Tamashek) electric guitar legends revolutionised a traditional style to give birth to a new genre often called ‘desert blues’. They also have a history rooted deeply in revolution and fighting for the rights of their nomadic Tamashek speaking culture and people. More>>

Gordon Campbell: Best New Music Of 2017

Any ‘best of list’ has to be an exercise in wishful thinking, given the splintering of everyone’s listening habits... But maybe… it could be time for the re-discovery of the lost art of listening to an entire album, all the way through. Just putting that idea out there. More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland