New Zealand can't be complacent about antibiotic-resistant bacterial pathogens, even though it has fewer than the rest of the world, warns an Otago University professor.
The World Health Organisation has released a list of 12 families of bacteria it says pose the greatest threat to human health, warning that new antibitoics are urgently needed to treat them.
Professor of Biochemistry Kurt Krause said it was fortunate the most highly resistant strains had not yet been reported in New Zealand, however antibiotic-resistant strains do eventually spread across the world.
"Somebody can fly in with these, or they can come in on a boat or any kind of travel, they can come in," he said.
"It's important that we have surveillance mechanisms in place to make sure how many antibiotic-resistant bacteria we have around here."
Mr Krause said the most important ones on the list for New Zealand were the priority-two Campylobacter and Staphylococcus aureus, and priority-three Streptococcus pneumoniae, which all caused illness in significant numbers of people each year.
He said people also needed to be smart about how they used antibiotics, so they did not contribute to resistance.
That included things like only taking antibiotics when prescribed, and eliminating their unneeded use in people, plants and animals.
Mr Krause said the government could do more to encourage scientists to develop new antibiotics.