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