Medicine: Linking Drugs to the Dinner Table

Antibiotics on the farm may be playing a role in human disease

If antibiotics have proved to be wonder drugs for medicine, they have been nothing short of miracle workers in agriculture over the past quarter-century. Today, about 15 million Ibs. a year, nearly half of U.S. annual production of antibiotics, are fed to farm animals, primarily cattle, poultry and pigs. Although the drugs help check the spread of bacterial infections among closely penned animals, their use is prompted as much by a happy side effect: for reasons not yet understood, they accelerate animal growth. But the lacing of animal feed with...

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