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Scientists Warn Antibiotic Resistance Tests Needed


Scientists Warn Of Need To Test Antibiotic Resistance

Wellington (Nov. 28) – In New Zealand, as elsewhere in the world, antibiotic resistant bacteria are becoming an increasing problem. Leading scientists are concerned that there is very little data available to accurately assess the magnitude of the problem and that poor quality surveillance exposes us to significant risk.

There is increasing empirical – or observed – evidence that antibiotic resistance is increasing in New Zealand, but evaluating the development of the potentially deadly trend is being hampered by significant gaps in information, according to Dr Greg Cook of the Microbiology Department, University of Otago.

“We don’t know how significant the problem is, but the signs we do have are disturbing,” Dr Cook said.

“We have results showing resistance across a range of antibiotics and it is critical that we find out whether these are isolated events or not,” he said.

In 1999, antibiotic Resistance Steering Group was set up by the Animal Remedies Board to look at whether antibiotic resistance was a growing problem. The group recommended a surveillance programme to bring consistency to the collection and analysis of resistance data, and to integrate human health, animal health and food production data to highlight any interactions.

Dr Mark Jones, clinical microbiologist with Southern Community Laboratories said initial evidence is that there might be interactions.

“There is ample evidence that there should be further and coordinated investigation,” Dr Jones said.

For the past 6 years Southern Community Laboratories has been tracking resistant bacteria throughout New Zealand, with several multiply-resistant bacteria infections having been identified.

“For a country where antibiotics are used in significant quantities this should be a stern warning that we need to look at this problem more closely,” Dr Jones said.

In New Zealand, antibiotics are used to prevent and control infections in humans, plants and animals.

No firm association has yet been made between horticultural or agricultural produce and resistance to bacteria in humans, but scientists suggest that as a major producer of these products New Zealand should be interested in having extensive and accurate data on any potential problem.

“New Zealand should be leading the world on research of this potential problem,” said John Aitken, Laboratory Manager, Microbiology, with Southern Community Laboratories.

“A practically-based monitoring group with appropriate technical, scientific industry, agricultural, pharmaceutical and medical input should be established as a first step,” Mr Aitken said.

The objective of this measure would be to increase knowledge of the issue, so that all of those groups involved in the industry could have input into any necessary solutions.

Editors Note

Messrs Cook, Jones and Aitken will present a briefing to health officials and interested parties at the Beehive Theatrette on Thursday November 28 at 12.30 p.m. Their presentation includes scientific evidence on antibiotic resistance findings at hospitals in New Zealand.


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