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)


16 September 2021

NZMN updated position statement on saliva testing for SARS CoV-2 in New Zealand (September 2021)

Summary of recommendations

  • Nasopharyngeal swabs (NPS) are the preferred sample type for detection of SARS-CoV-2 by Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT), for high-risk scenarios (eg. high index of suspicion cases and contact screening). A combined anterior nares & throat swab or a saliva sample for NAAT are acceptable alternatives.
  • Asymptomatic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 requires appropriate frequency of testing whether by saliva or NPS NAAT. Saliva may improve acceptability of more frequent testing.
  • The overall performance of a system of asymptomatic surveillance, including access to and frequency of testing, and actions taken on results of testing, are more important components of a screening regimen than the sample type used for NAAT.
  • Clinical microbiologist oversight, robust processes for timely reporting of results to relevant stakeholders, appropriate validation/verification, quality assurance and IANZ accreditation are required as for all diagnostic tests.

The full position statement is available here [PDF, 354 KB]


01 September 2021

NZMN position statement on Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) for SARS CoV-2 in Aotearoa New Zealand


Executive summary

  • Rapid antigen tests (RAT) have lower sensitivity compared to nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT) and can only reliably detect people with high viral load
  • RAT are not suited to high throughput usage, and do not replace the need for increased laboratory-based NAAT capacity during periods of high demand, but may have a complementary role under defined circumstances
  • The main benefit of RAT is fast turnaround time, which becomes most relevant during periods of high demand if NAAT turnaround times become prolonged
  • Symptomatic people require NAAT in addition to RAT in the current New Zealand context
  • All positive RAT require confirmation by NAAT in the current New Zealand context
  • Appropriate training, ongoing quality assurance, clinical oversight and result reporting mechanisms must be well-established prior to any RAT programme rollout

The full position statement is available here [PDF, 228 KB]


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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