Listeria

Listeriosis is a rare bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria is found commonly on most animals as well as widespread throughout the environment. The most common source of infection is eating infected foods.

Unlike most bacteria, Listeria is able to continue multiplying at refrigeration temperatures. Therefore any uncooked foods for example soft cheeses, pate and coleslaw can contain large numbers of the bacteria when eaten. However, it is estimated that up to 70% of people will carry Listeria within their gut without contracting the disease.

In pregnant women the disease may cause mild 'flu-like' symptoms. However, the disease can cross the placenta causing the more severe neonatal listeriosis in the fetus. The infection can cause miscarriage, premature delivery or a form of meningitis.

Pregnant women should therefore avoid eating pates, any dairy products made from unpasteurised milk and foods containing raw eggs. Although there are no vaccines available to prevent the listeriosis, the infection is easily treated with penicillin.

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