What is Listeriosis?


is essentially a bacterial infection. The bacteria involved is better known as Listeria monocytogenes. It is a gram positive active bacterium. This infection is primarily known to affect infants, elderly and immune compromised individuals.

It is mostly contracted by eating food contaminated with the said bacteria. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists it as an important public health issue and states that about 2500 people are affected by it each year. About 500 of this number die from it. The mortality rate from the disease is between 20 and 30%. In case of the infection affecting unborn or newborns, about 22% is the prenatal and neonatal death rate.

How is Listeriosis contracted?

Listeria Monocytogenes, the bacteria involved, is commonly found in wild and domesticated animals. Soil and water gets contaminated from the animal feces. This bacteria is renowned for making animals sick and causing still births and miscarriages in animals.

Meat containing the bacteria or vegetables grown on contaminated soil can cause the food poisoning. Raw milk and dairy products can also be a source.

Symptoms of Listeriosis

The symptoms of this particular food poisoning are as follows:

  • Fever.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Stiff neck.
  • Nausea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Jaundice.
  • Lethargy or tiredness.
  • Respiratory distress or pneumonia.
  • Shock.
  • It can affect brain tissue and can result in excess pressure inside the skull.
  • Brain abscess.
  • Heart muscle infection.
  • Pneumonia.
  • Conjunctivitis.

What are the complications of the said bacterial infection?

  • Food poisoning from consuming contaminated food mostly results in gastrointestinal illness.
  • In severe cases, it can cause an inflammation in the membranous covering of the brain. This is known as meningitis.
  • It can also cause blood infection known or septicemia.
  • It can be very dangerous for pregnant women. Infection in pregnancy can result in miscarriages. The bacteria has the potential of transporting itself across the placenta and reaching the unborn fetus. It also results in premature birth.
  • In late pregnancy, it can cause still birth or death of an infant. The transmission of the bacteria in newborns is caused during vaginal delivery.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The bacteria has to be detected with the culture of a blood sample.
The infection is treated with strong antibiotics like penicillin and gentamicin for a period of at least 2 weeks. Meningitis is treated for 3 weeks and abscess in the brain is treated for at least 6 weeks.

Prevention of the infection

To prevent the infection it is of utmost importance to maintain cleanliness and hygiene. This would mean washing raw foods well and cooking them well. Cooking and reheating is an effective method of eliminating bacteria.
During pregnancy, it is more important to follow the general safety guidelines to avoid this risk prone food poisoning.

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