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MRSA: Farming up trouble

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Microbiologists are trying to work out whether use of antibiotics on farms is fuelling the human epidemic of drug-resistant bacteria.

The sight of just one boot coming through the doorway cues the clatter of tiny hoofs as 500 piglets scramble away from Mike Male. “That's the sound of healthy pigs,” shouts Male, a veterinarian who has been working on pig farms for more than 30 years. On a hot June afternoon, he walks down the central aisle of a nursery in eastern Iowa, scoops up a piglet and dangles her by her hind legs. A newborn piglet's navel is an easy entry point for bacterial infections, he explains. If this pig were infected, she would have an abscess, a lump of inflamed tissue, just below the navel. “In human terms, she'd be an outie instead of an innie,” he says, rubbing the pig's healthy, pink belly button.

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