Health in the News: Listeriosis

(March 3, 2014) 1 Dead, Babies Ill from Listeria Linked to Cheese

Listeria monocytogenes

Listeria monocytogenes

Michael and I were talking the day before this came up on the internet about cheese contamination. He mentioned the possibility of E. coli from the poo on the udders but I told him the biggest worry was Listeria according to my microbiology courses. Listeria it is.

As defined on the Center for Disease Control Website: Listeriosis, a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, is an important public health problem in the United States. The disease primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. Babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers eat contaminated food during pregnancy. Listeria monocytogenes is commonly found in soil, water and in mammals, birds, spiders and crustaceans. Animals can carry the bacterium without appearing ill and can contaminate foods of animal origin, such as meats and dairy products (raw or pasteurized), but raw veggies like sprouts can also be contaminated. Listeria is not passed through breast milk.

This particular incidence in the news had been in the news in August and November of 2013 but the CDC said there may be more cases. An ongoing investigation continues.

The contaminated cuajada en terron or fresh cheese curd, distributed from Roos Foods originated from Maryland and California. Roos foods cheese is sold under the brand names of Santa Rosa de Lima, Amigo, Mexicana, Suyapa, La Chapina and La Purisima Crema Nica. These products and more have been recalled by Roos.

Three of the illnesses were in newborns and two of the illnesses were mothers of two of the ill newborns. All affected were Hispanic says the CDC (although I don’t know what difference that makes).

The incubation period for Listeria is from 3-70 days. Symptoms, which can last from days to weeks, include fever, stiff neck, confusion, weakness, vomiting and diarrhea. Meningitis, endocarditis, and opthalmitis (swollen lymph nodes around the eyes) are less common symptoms. Exposure to veterinarians via animals that have aborted because of listeria are a concern to my own profession as a veterinarian but butchers are susceptible as well.

Treatment of Listeriosis: Penicillin, Tobramycin and Erythromycin are antibiotics used to treat listeriosis.

References for Listeria: