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Antimicrobial resistance warning for NZ

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/05/2017

Scientist performing microbial tests. © Shutterstock Scientist performing microbial tests. New Zealand's relative isolation offers no protection from the deadly global growth in antimicrobial resistance, an Auckland University microbiologist says.

Dr Siouxsie Wiles says the country is as vulnerable as the rest of the world.

She says New Zealand has higher rates of many infectious diseases than countries like the United States, Britain and Australia, and a growing number of those organisms are becoming resistant to medicines.

New Zealanders also travel a lot, and each trip increases the opportunity to bring resistant organisms back.

"We are also breeding them here ourselves, especially by the way we use and abuse antibiotics," she said.

Dr Wiles is a councillor with the Royal Society Te Aparangi, which has released its latest report, a summary of research on antimicrobial resistance.

Microbes' resistance to medicines used to treat infectious diseases is predicted to kill more than 10 million people worldwide every year by 2050 and to have major impacts on animal health.

Dr Wiles said antimicrobial resistance was not new, "but the problem is we are running out of medicines that work".

She said the issue ranked with climate change in seriousness.

All New Zealanders could help by practising high standards of hygiene, taking antibiotics only as prescribed and not insisting on antibiotics from doctors and vets.

New Zealand has made a commitment to the World Health Organisation to have a national antimicrobial resistance action plan.

However, the Royal Society Te Aparangi report warns that the plan will likely only delay and reduce the severity of the impact in New Zealand.

Dr Wiles said the same was likely to apply to the research under way here and overseas to develop new antimicrobial medicines.

"It may buy us time, but we are unlikely to find the silver bullet."

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