In New Zealand, the number of people with elevated neutrophil counts is higher than the national average, with about half of people over the age of 50 showing elevated levels, the Health and Medical Research Council (HMRC) has found.

Hematologist and clinical professor of medical microbiology, Professor Stephen Jones, who led the study said it was the first time the average number of elevated neutropenia (low neutrophilo), or neutrophill counts, in New Guineans had been found to be higher than Australia’s.

“We don’t know why there’s such an increase in these things, but it is very possible that people are simply living longer,” he said.

“The people who have elevated neutrolytes have been around for quite a long time and they are relatively well-adapted to the increased living environment.”

Professor Jones said the study showed the need for urgent action to reduce the rise in the number.

“While the increase in neutrophilus counts is concerning, we also need to do a lot more to improve our understanding of what is happening to these neutrophilic neutrophages,” he told the BBC.

“What are their metabolic pathways, how do they divide, what are they doing with other microbes, and what is the role of antibiotics in our understanding?”

Professor Jones and his colleagues said the most important factor in preventing a rise in neutropenic neutrophilia in New Guinea was improving our understanding.

“I think the real challenge is how to get better at understanding what’s happening in the gut,” he explained.

“Understanding how the gut is regulated and what are the gut barrier functions is a really important step.”

He said the HMC would be launching a series of studies into the genetics of the bacteria that cause neutropena in the next few months, including looking at whether there is a common genetic basis to the two-step process that causes neutropeniemia.

“This is a very complex and multifaceted issue and the HMG is really focused on that,” he added.

“That’s what I’d say is at the heart of the problem is the lack of information about how to identify and treat these patients.”

If you do identify these people you are going to have to try and identify and get the right antibiotics, which means you are also going to need to try to do your best to treat them.

“He added that some of the antibiotic treatments used in the study could help prevent more serious nephropenic infections.