What is antimicrobial resistance?

Antimicrobial resistance is the broader term for resistance in different types of microorganisms (eg, bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi). 


It encompasses resistance to antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic and antifungal drugs.


Antimicrobial resistance is a major concern because resistant infections can spread to others, imposing huge costs to individuals and society.


Medical procedures such as surgery could become extremely difficult, or even impossible, due to antimicrobial resistance. Common infections may become untreatable, which could lead to death.


When microorganisms become resistant to most antimicrobials, they are often referred to as ‘superbugs’.


New Zealand’s rate of antimicrobial resistance is comparatively low, particularly when compared to countries in neighbouring regions such as South-East Asia.


However, New Zealand should not become complacent, as there has been a rise in antimicrobial resistance to some types of infections and we have increasing antimicrobial use.

What we're doing in New Zealand

New Zealand published its Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan in August 2017, based on a situation analysis report published in April 2017.

For information on how the plan is being implemented, go to Antimicrobial resistance action plan activities.

The Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited (ESR) is contracted by the Ministry of Health to undertake an extensive surveillance programme and other activities related to combatting antimicrobial resistance, including establishing and providing support to the New Zealand Microbiology Network.

Find out more under ESR surveillance information.

There are also ongoing initiatives in New Zealand aimed at combatting antimicrobial resistance, including education, surveillance, hand hygiene, restrictions on prescriptions, and improving the appropriate use of antimicrobials.

These initiatives are undertaken by a number of organisations including PHARMAC, Best Practice Advocacy Centre New Zealand, and the Health Quality & Safety Commission.

More information


Together we can keep antibiotics working

Guidance on how we can reduce antibiotic resistance.


The plan includes 18 priority action areas with specific activities to be implemented over 5 years. This section includes information on the activities, progress against the plan, and governance.


This page contains guidelines, resources and some regional antibiograms for New Zealand antibiotic prescribers.


Resources promoting antibiotic awareness among consumers have been produced both nationally and internationally.


The Choosing Wisely campaign has these messages for health professionals about using antibiotics wisely.


Publications on minimising antimicrobial resistance and managing antimicrobial-resistant infections.