Clinical microbiology laboratories play a critical and increasingly complex role in the diagnosis of infectious disease. The New Zealand Microbiology Network (NZMN) connects these laboratories together in order to provide timely and consistent responses to issues relating to laboratory testing and to ensure regular communication between microbiology laboratories in New Zealand.

The Ministry of Health contracted the Institute of Environmental Science and Research(external link) (ESR) to establish and facilitate the NZMN in 2014.

Contact the NZMN

To get in touch with the NZMN, please contact the Chair. Email NZMN


COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

Information and advice about COVID-19 is available from the Ministry of Health website(external link).


Swab collection for COVID-19

Details on how to take nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal and anterior nasal specimens for COVID-19 are available from here(external link)


5 March 2021

New Zealand Microbiology Network (NZMN) statement on saliva testing for surveillance of SARS CoV-2 (COVID-19).

The NZMN has published a position statement on saliva testing for surveillance of SARS-CoV-2.  The full statement can be found here [PDF, 142 KB] and a summary of recommendations below.


NZMN Position Statement on saliva testing for surveillance of SARS CoV-2


Summary of recommendations

  • There is increasing interest in saliva testing for detection of SARS-CoV-2 due to the perceived ease of collection of saliva compared to nasopharyngeal swabs (NPS).


  • Published international data indicate that saliva is less sensitive than the gold standard NPS, especially among asymptomatic people. False negative results in a low prevalence situation have the potential to undermine confidence in testing. The NZMN does not recommend the use of saliva as a diagnostic assay for testing of symptomatic patients or asymptomatic contacts of confirmed cases for SARS-CoV-2.
  • It is unknown whether the cost and resource required for upscaling of surveillance saliva testing will be cost effective in terms of the overall risk reduction to New Zealanders, over and above the vaccination programme and other mitigation measures already in place.
  • NZMN recommends that if introduced, regular saliva testing for surveillance among border workers should not replace NPS testing already in place.  


  • NZMN recommends careful consideration is given to the appropriate method and frequency for saliva testing and would like to emphasise the need for clinical microbiologist oversight in any surveillance testing programme.


  • NZMN recommends that saliva samples should not be pooled.


  • NZMN recommends that laboratories offering saliva testing be IANZ accredited for this work.


  • NZMN recommends that laboratories have in place robust processes and information technology in place for timely reporting of accurate results, including automated transfer into the ESR SARS-CoV-2 data repository. Laboratories should also have in place agreed referral pathways for confirmation testing, when required.



3rd April 2020

New Zealand Microbiology Network (NZMN) Statement on Rapid Diagnostic Tests for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19)

The NZMN has published a position statement on the use of point-of-care serology and antigen detection tests.  The full statement can be found here [PDF, 649 KB].

NZMN Position Statement on Use of Point-of-Care Serology and Antigen Detection Tests

  • NZMN supports a national strategy around investigation and use of these tests. It is essential that the quality and clinical utility of rapidly developed tests is systematically assessed.
  • There are significant limitations to the use these tests and they are not recommended as first line tests for the diagnosis of acute COVID-19 infection.
  • If used properly by a trained medical professional, validated serological point of care tests may have some utility in determining past infection for screening purposes.
  • NZMN recommends that a nationally conducted retrospective serological survey should be used to determine the true prevalence of infection using enzyme immunoassays.




NZMN Choosing Wisely urine testing recommendations

A list of Choosing Wisely recommendations for urine testing has been launched.  The full list is available from the Choose Wisely website(external link).


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