New Zealanders urged to go easy on their use of antibiotics

17 Nov 2014 | Infection Prevention & Control

It’s Antibiotic Awareness Week and New Zealanders are being urged to go easy on their use of antibiotics.

The Health Quality & Safety Commission has joined Australia, the United States, Canada and countries throughout Europe to highlight the problem of antimicrobial resistance and the need for responsible use of antibiotics.

Clinical microbiologist Dr Sally Roberts, the Commission’s clinical lead for its infection prevention and control programme, says a World Health Organization (WHO) global report on antimicrobial resistance earlier this year warned the problem is so serious it threatens the achievements of modern medicine.

Overuse of antibiotics is a major cause of antimicrobial resistance, which results in a microorganism (for example, bacteria, fungus, virus or parasite) not responding to an antimicrobial drug used to treat an infection.

‘The WHO report was based on data provided by 114 countries, including New Zealand,’ says Dr Roberts. ‘It found high levels of antimicrobial resistance towards common bacteria in all regions of the world, along with significant gaps in information about other pathogens of major public health importance.’

The report showed New Zealand has a comparatively low rate of antimicrobial resistance, she says, but there is no cause for complacency, given the country’s high use of antibiotics and the potential transmission of resistant microorganisms from one country to another.

Antibiotic Awareness Week, which runs from 17 to 23 November, is emphasising the importance of:

  • doctors prescribing antibiotics only when necessary
  • patients taking antibiotics as directed
  • patients completing their full prescription even if they feel better
  • patients never sharing antibiotics with other people or using leftover prescriptions
  • the importance of good hand hygiene to help prevent the spread of antibiotic resistant infections, both in the community and in hospitals.

A focal point of the week will be live Twitter chats on European Antibiotic Awareness Day, 18 November, during which experts will answer questions about antimicrobial resistance. Follow @HQSCNZ, @EAAD_eu and @NPSMedicinewise and use the hashtag #AntibioticDay.

For more information about Antibiotic Awareness Week and the Commission’s infection prevention and control programme, visit or download the frequently asked questions.

Last updated 17/11/2014