Atlas of foodborne infections
transmitted by contaminated food and water

Atlas of Patogens Contents Information sources Glossary Administration

Listeria monocytogenes

CZ: listérie
EN: listeria

Meat and Meat Products
Milk and Milk Products
Soft Cheeses
Fruits and Vegetables
Water and Beverages
Hard Cheeses


Foodborne Disease:
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listeriosis - fever, muscle aches, and sometimes nausea or diarrhoea;


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Listeriosis, a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, has recently been recognized as an important public health problem. The disease affects primarily pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. A person with listeriosis has fever, muscle aches, and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhoea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur. Infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness; however, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth, premature delivery, or infection of the newborn.

Listeria monocytogenes is found in soil and water. Vegetables can become contaminated from the soil or from manure used as fertilizer. Animals can carry the bacterium without appearing ill and can contaminate foods of animal origin such as meats and dairy products. The bacterium has been found in a variety of raw foods, such as uncooked meats and vegetables, as well as in processed foods that become contaminated after processing, such as soft cheeses and cold cuts at the deli counter. Unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk may contain the bacterium. Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking; however, in certain ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and deli meats, contamination may occur after cooking but before packaging.

When infection occurs during pregnancy, antibiotics given promptly to the pregnant woman can often prevent infection of the foetus or newborn. Babies with listeriosis receive the same antibiotics as adults, although a combination of antibiotics is often used until physicians are certain of the diagnosis. Even with prompt treatment, some infections result in death. This is particularly likely in the elderly and in persons with other serious medical problems.

Listeria monocytogenes causes serious human illness such as perinatal infections, septicemia and meningitis. In pregnant women it can cause a flu-like illness, which can result in miscarriage, stillbirth or birth of a severely ill infant. More recently, it has been recognized that L. monocytogenes can cause mild gastrointestinal symptoms. Listeriosis is a comparatively rare but very serious human illness with a case-fatality ratio of around 20%. Highly susceptible individuals include pregnant women, neonates,


Source: A magnified view of Listeria monocytogenes - scan microscopy
Source: Collecting of samples for dignostic procudures
Source: Detail of listeria
Source: Detail of Listeria colonies on agar
Source: Diagnostic test
Source: Listeriosis: food-borne disease campaign I.
Source: Listeriosis: food-borne disease campaign II.
Source: microbiological cultivation
Source: Microscopic examination of Listeria monocytogenes (colored)

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