Superbug threats in New Zealand

An Auckland health symposium has identified rheumatic fever and superbugs as the greatest infectious disease threats in New Zealand.

About 350 medical professionals and scientists attended the New Zealand Superbugs Symposium yesterday to discuss bacterial disease threats and holistic approaches to combat them.

University of Otago epidemiologist Associate Professor Michael Baker presented new data on the rise of superbugs.

"Until fairly recently the conventional wisdom was that infectious diseases were disappearing. In fact our research shows that over the last 20 years the burden of infectious disease in New Zealand has increased significantly," he said.

The number of hospitalisations due to infectious disease rose by about 20,000 a year from 1989 to 2008, he said.

Auckland District Health Board clinical microbiologist and infectious disease physician Sally Roberts said the rise of anti-microbial resistant organisms, like ESBLs, was one of the greatest challenges facing the medical profession.

Diseases caused by streptococcus pyogenes, such as rheumatic fever, were also of major concern.

"It is valuable for clinicians to meet with a group of scientists doing the basic research that can help us to answer some of these questions and to allow future collaboration between the medical and scientific community," she said.




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