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Potential for the Spread of Listeria Monocytogenes

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Biology
Wordcount: 1017 words Published: 18th May 2020

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This will be a discussion about the pathogenic bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.  Included in the discussion will be an in-depth investigation into the diseases L. monocytogenes causes, the people it effects and how they are treated, how the disease is transmitted and what can be done to stop the cycle of transmission.  L. monocytogenes is a food-borne transmitted disease that can affect the central nervous system. It can cause bacterial meningitis which can lead to encephalitis or brain abscess.  It has been reported to be the cause of 20% of meningitis in neonates and those over 60. According to the CDC, the morbidity rate of those infected with L. monocytogenes is about 1,600 cases per year, with the mortality rate about 260 individuals per year. (CDC, 2016). At risk populations, include neonates/newborns, adults over 50, organ transplant patients and those with suppressed immune systems.   L. monocytogenes was first known as Bacterium monocytogenes because it had the traits of monocytosis.  However, is 1927 it was renamed to Listeria hepatoytica and then renamed once more to its current name in 1940 (Farber, 1991). In 2000, Listeriosis was reported as a national disease in the United States (Lober, 2019).  L. monocytogenes can be found in soil, on vegetation or in the stool of healthy humans and animals.  It can commonly be found in the following foods; raw vegetables, unpasteurized milk, fish, deli meat, soft cheeses, melons and ready to eat pork products.  What about the L. monocytogenes makes it so virulent?

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L. monocytogenes is a catalase and CAMP positive,non-spore forming facultative anaerobe bacteria that stains as a gram-positive rod and grows best between 30-37⁰C; however, it can still grow at refrigerator temperatures (40⁰C) and presents β-hemolysis when grown on blood agar. The flagellar arrangement of peritrichous provide L. monocytogenes with tumbling motility but flagellar production varies depending on the temperature of the environment.  The flagella grow at the cell surface between 20-25⁰C, but at 37⁰C flagella production is significantly reduced (Farber, 1991).  Adding to its pathogenicity is its ability to hide within the phagolysosomes of host cells, destroy the membrane of the phagolysosome with the exotoxin Listeriolysin O and gain access to the host cell’s cytoplasm.  From there Listeria undergoes division within the cytoplasm and then migrates to the side of the cells and pushes the membrane out to from pseudopods, which are used to move the bacteria from cell to cell (Lober, 2019). Once in the body what disease does it cause and who does it affect?

L. monocytogenes is the cause of 19-28% of all food-borne disease related deaths (Lober, 2019).  Pregnant women who contract L. monocytogenes usually experience mild flu like symptoms, but the bacteria can be passed through the placenta resulting in abortions, still births or in the case of newborns meningitis, which carry a high fatality rate.  Others may experience headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, fever and muscle aches of which can be associated with meningitis (CDC, 2016).  Ampicillin plus Gentamicin is used to treat meningitis, brain abscess, endocarditis with listeria and bacteremia.  Treatment should be given for a minimum of 3, 6, 6, and 2 weeks respectively and for those with penicillin sensitivities Trimethorpim-Sulfamathoxazole (TMP-SMX) is often prescribed (Lober, 2019).

L. monocytogenes is typically transmitted my eating contaminated food, except for fetal or neonatal infections, which occur in utero.  To break the chain of transmission, one should be careful to avoid raw milk, separate raw meat from other foods, wash raw vegetables, ready to eat foods such as deli meat should be cooked until steaming hot and washing hands, cooking utensils and surfaces after handling uncooked foods. Organ transplant or immunocompromised patients are typically administered Pneumocystis prophylaxis to prevent infection (Lober, 2019). Pregnant women should avoid soft cheeses such as queso fresco, feta and brie.

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In summary, L. monocytogenes is afood-borne bacterium, whichcan cause some serious diseases such as bacterial meningitis and the spontaneous abortion or death of fetus and neonates.  The bacteria’s ability to hide within host cells and turn the host cells into virulent cells that pass their pathogenicity from cell to cell aids in their destructive nature.  Although there is no vaccine to prevent L. monocytogenes, simple precautions such as proper cooking and washing techniques prevent the spread of the bacteria.   However, should one contract L. monocytogenes a regime of Ampicillin and Gentamicin should be prescribed by a health care professional.


  • Lorber, B. (n.d.). Listeria monocytogenes. In Antimicrobe Infectious Disease and Antimicrobial Agents. Retrieved June 29, 2019, from http://antimicrobe.org/b111.asp
  • Listeria (Listeriosis). (2016, December 12). In Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved June 29, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/listeria/index.html
  • Farber, J. M., & Peterkin, P. I. (1991). Listeria monocytogenes, a food-borne pathogen. Microbiological reviews55(3), 476–511.


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