About antimicrobial resistance

Why do we care about antibiotics and antibiotic resistance?

  • Antibiotics are essential for treating bacterial infections in humans and animals.
  • Antibiotic resistance stops an antibiotic from working effectively against bacteria. It makes infections difficult, and sometimes impossible to treat.
  • The more antibiotics are used, the more bacteria are able to adapt and find new ways to survive, becoming ‘resistant’ to antibiotics.
  • Using antibiotics when they are not needed drives bacteria to become more resistant.
  • People don’t become resistant to antibiotics, bacteria do. Antibiotic resistant bacteria can spread between people or between animals, and are very difficult and expensive to treat.
  • Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and the environment today. It can impact anyone, of any age, in any country.
  • Antibiotics are a precious resource. Today there are few new antibiotics in development, so we must protect the antibiotics that we have to ensure these life-saving medicines remain effective in the future.
  • Without antibiotics, we may face a situation where cancer treatments, organ transplants and other medical procedures are no longer possible, as they rely on antibiotics to manage the risk of infection.
  • Bacterial infections which are easily treatable today could become deadly in the future.
  • We can all do something to help stop antibiotic resistance. Together we can keep antibiotics working.

Antibiotic use in humans in New Zealand

  • Use of antibiotics in New Zealand is high compared with many other countries.
  • Up to 95 percent of antibiotics are dispensed in the community.
  • Community-based use of antibiotics is estimated to have increased by up to 49 percent between 2006 and 2014.
  • Almost every child in New Zealand has been exposed to antibiotics by the time they turn five.
  • About half of the people who visited their GP in 2017 were dispensed at least one antibiotic. 
  • About one third of people were dispensed an antibiotic within 30 days of discharge from hospital in 2017.

Antibiotic resistance in humans in New Zealand

  • The rate of antibiotic resistance in New Zealand is currently relatively low compared with other countries. However, certain antibiotic-resistant infections are increasing, including resistant strains of Escherichia coli, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Staphylococcus aureus.
  • Rates of infection with highly-resistant Carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) have increased sharply in recent years  – with hospital and community outbreaks of CPE experienced in different parts of New Zealand.
  • Māori and Pacific peoples are between two and four times more likely to be admitted to hospital for treatment of an infection than other New Zealanders. This means that Māori and Pacific peoples will be disproportionately impacted by worse health outcomes due to antibiotic resistance.
  • Children, older people, those who are hospitalised, immune-compromised and critically ill, all have a greater need for effective antibiotics – therefore are more likely to be impacted by antibiotic resistance.


These videos can be shared to promote antibiotic awareness. If you would like access to the video file (eg, for use in waiting rooms), email us.


Social media images
Images that can be used to promote antibiotic awareness on social media.


Atlas of Healthcare Variation on Community Use of Antibiotics
The Health Quality and Safety Commission New Zealand produced this Atlas to highlight regional and demographic variation in community antibiotic use, with the goal of prompting debate and raising questions about why differences exist.


Royal Society Te Aparangi-produced resources
Royal Society Te Apārangi has produced these antimicrobial resistance awareness resources. Contact Nancy de Bueger at Royal Society Te Apārangi for any questions about reusing these resources.


Office of the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor: Antimicrobial resistance - an imminent threat to Aotearoa, New Zealand
The Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor has developed this information sheet on antimicrobial resistance, endorsed by the Science Advisory Network.