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Halt to superbug surveillance astonishing: Greens

Halt to superbug surveillance astonishing, say Greens

A Health Ministry decision to stop national surveillance of the superbug MRSA in New Zealand has astonished the Green Party.

"I am incredulous at the stupidity of this decision. MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is still endemic in New Zealand, and the organism is mutating into new and more dangerous forms overseas. We need more, not less surveillance of this," Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"Unless we have national surveillance of MRSA we won't know how widespread it is in the community, whether new outbreaks are occurring or whether it is increasing or mutating."

"Last year 6528 New Zealanders were recorded as having MRSA and a further 1788 had multiresistant MRSA (resistant to two or more classes of antibiotics), including 100 healthcare workers around the country. Clearly the superbug is still endemic in New Zealand and is spreading in certain communities such as South Auckland.

"Instead of discontinuing our national surveillance programme, we should be increasing our surveillance, developing a national strategy to reduce our alarming rates of MRSA in New Zealand, and introducing mandatory reporting of mMRSA," Ms Kedgley says.

MRSA is a form of staphylococcus aureus which has mutated to become resistant to most commonly used antibiotics. It is most dangerous when it enters the bloodstream and poisons the blood. Outbreaks have forced the closure of hospital wards on several occasions.

The Health Ministry's Antibiotic Resistance Advisory Group Surveillance Subcommittee made a decision to stop the surveillance of mMRSA and cease publication of its monthly MRSA report at a recent meeting. Instead, they will only undertake a one month survey of the bug each year from now on.

"ESR is supposed to be monitoring trends in antibiotic resistance and emerging organisms. Without a routine national surveillance programme in place, it won't be able to do this properly." New strains of superbugs, which are resistant to an ever-wider range of common antibiotics are emerging around the world, and are recognised as a serious public health concern, Ms Kedgley says

Only last month the Institute of Environmental Science and Research expressed concern that bacteria were becoming resistant to antibiotics at a concerning rate, with resistance to some bacteria increasing by 35 times in the past decade.

ENDS

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