Listeriosis is a type of serious bacterial infection caused by eating food contaminated by the bacteria known as Listeria monocytogenes

Causative agent : 

Listeria monocytogenes

Epidemiology :

The infection is seen worldwide and usually sporadic with outbreaks occasionally caused by contaminated food. The infection is usually mild in healthy individuals but can have serious consequences in some patient subgroups :  viz:  pregnant women, elderly patients, and immunocompromised patients. The incidence increases in those more than 50 years of age. Infection in pregnancy can be a mild disease for the mother but can result in fetal loss, still births, premature labour and severe neonatal sepsis of the newborne. Infection in immunocompromised individuals can result in serious disease including meningitis, brainstem encephalitis and strokes, resulting in death. It is also more likely in patients with liver, renal disease, diabetes and alcoholism.

Implicated Food :

  • Vegetables / Salads
  • Diary produce
  • Cold cuts
  • Unpasteurised diary produce
  • Salad dressing
  • Soft cheese
  • Eggs
  • Contaminated meats
  • Smoked fish/ meat

Clinical Presentation :

Can present with the following syndromes :

Mild flu-like illness


Meningo-encephalitis / stroke

Neonatal sepsis of newborne

Mild cases are usually seen in otherwise healthy people and can present like a flu-like illness with fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhoea. Meningitis can be severe and present as headaches, fever, seizures or drowsiness. It can also present as a gastroenteritis with nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Diagnosis :

The diagnosis can be confirmed by isolation of the bacteria by culture in the blood, stools or cerebrospinal fluid depending on the specimens obtained based on the syndrome.

Treatment :

Usually with antibiotics. Penicillins or sulphur drugs alone or in combination can be used for treatment.

Prevention :

  1. Adopt eating safe food practice i.e. eating cooked food, stored properly and consuming only pasteurised diary produce
  2. Do not mix cooked and raw food, use different cutting boards and knives and store them apart in the fridge
  3. Pregnant and immunocompromised patients should not consume undercooked or raw food or unpasteurised diary food.
  4. Practice food and water hygiene

There is no place for antibiotic prophylaxis and there is no vaccine available for this infection

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