World Antimicrobial Awareness Week

NZ Antimicrobial Stewardship and Infection Pharmacist Expert Group

and Pharmaceutical Society of NZ

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) is a global campaign that puts the spotlight on the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial resistance is where microbes, like bacteria and viruses, evolve and become able to evade the medicines we use to treat infection.

Since the 1940s when penicillin was discovered, antimicrobial medicines like antibiotics have become a critical component of healthcare enabling many other advances like surgery and cancer treatment. However, we are losing this valuable resource as the microbes become more and more resistant to them.

Worldwide, around 1.3 million people now die annually from bacterial infections that are resistant to antibiotics. This figure is predicted to swell to 10 million deaths annually if we do not take effective and collective action now. For WAAW this year, the New Zealand Antimicrobial Stewardship and Infection Pharmacist Expert Group together with the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand are leading a national initiative to help raise awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance.

This year’s work centres on an Antibiotic Amnesty where people are encouraged to return old or unwanted antibiotics to their pharmacy for proper disposal. Antibiotics put down toilets or sinks, or into the household rubbish are more likely to get into the environment which exposes bacteria

to them unnecessarily and can drive resistance to develop. Appropriate disposal of antibiotics according to New Zealand standards minimises this risk. It also lessens the chance that the antibiotic might be used inappropriately later, such as for a viral infection or shared with others, as this also drives the development of resistance.

We are delighted that multiple national health organisations support this initiative including PHARMAC, Manatū Hauora – Ministry of Health, Te Whatu Ora, Health Quality and Safety Commission and He Ako Hiringa. In keeping with the global theme of Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together, it is pleasing that the Ministry for Primary Industries is undertaking aligned messaging in animal health.

We are encouraging everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand to do what they can to help keep antimicrobials working. This includes adopting approaches that prevent infection such as hand hygiene, keeping up-to-date with vaccinations, and using safe food handling practices. It also includes using antimicrobial medicines only when necessary and as well as we can when they are needed.

More information on antimicrobial resistance can be found on the Manatū Hauora – Ministry of Health website