Listeriosis is a bacterial infection caused by a gram-positive, motile bacterium, ''Listeria monocytogenes''. Listeriosis is relatively rare and occurs primarily in newborn infants, elderly patients, and patients who are immunocompromised.
Electron micrograph of a Listeria bacterium in tissue. Listeria monocytogenes is the infectious agent responsible for the food borne illness Listeriosis. In the United States, an estimated 2,500 persons become seriously ill with listeriosis each year. Of these, 500 die. Image Credit: CDC/ Dr. Balasubr Swaminathan; Peggy Hayes
The symptoms of listeriosis usually last 7-10 days. The most common symptoms are fever and muscle aches. Nausea and diarrhea are less common symptoms. If the infection spreads to the nervous system it can cause meningitis, an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of meningitis are headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.
Listeriosis has a very low incidence in humans. However, pregnant women are much more likely than the rest of the population to contract it. Infected pregnant women may have only mild, flulike symptoms. However, infection in a pregnant woman can lead to early delivery, infection of the newborn, and death of the baby.
In veterinary medicine, listeriosis can be a quite common condition in some farm outbreaks. It can also be found in wild animals.
''Listeria monocytogenes'' is ubiquitous in the environment. The main route of acquisition of ''Listeria'' is through the ingestion of contaminated food products. ''Listeria'' has been isolated from raw meat, dairy products, vegetables, and seafood. Soft cheeses, unpasteurized milk and unpasteurised pâté are potential dangers; however, some outbreaks involving post-pasteurized milk have been reported.
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