“Killer on the Loose” (cover story, May 17) demonstrates why it is important to keep antibiotics working. Increasingly, human illness caused by bacteria cannot be treated with antibiotics that have worked in the past. How would the ending of this story differ if the invasive Group A streptococcal (GAS) infection was resistant to the antibiotics prescribed by Dr. Vescio?

Some antibiotics that are used to treat human illness are routinely fed to healthy chickens, pigs, and beef cattle to promote growth and to compensate for crowded living conditions. These antibiotics cause resistant bacteria to grow in the intestinal tract of the animals. Resistant bacteria may then pass on to humans through the meat of antibiotic-fed animals and the environment. Seventy percent of all antibiotics are used on healthy farm animals. Over half of these drugs are used to treat human illnesses. Such misuse contributes to the dangerous growth of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains that cause serious illness in humans.

Two important bills have now been introduced in Congress to address antibiotic use with farm animals. S. 2508 (introduced by Senator Edward Kennedy, D-MA) and H.R. 3804 (introduced by Representative Sherrod Brown, D-OH) are companion bills that would stop the routine feeding of medically important antibiotics to healthy livestock. This legislation is urgently needed to help keep antibiotics working for people who need them. Write your members of Congress and encourage them to support this legislation.

Cathleen Tracy

Illinois Organizer, Keep Antibiotics Working