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Why Listeria Is Competent to Be Virulent

It is downright scandalous that in our hi-tech world food-borne infections should be so prevalent (some 48 million cases a year in the US alone, with about 3000 deaths). The tools to take care of these problems are hardly mysterious, requiring mainly safe food production and preservation. High on the list of bacterial offenders is Listeria monocytogenes, a Gram-positive facultative intracellular pathogen that is acquired through ingestion of contaminated food or fluids. Listeria is found in uncooked meats, vegetables, fruits such as cantaloupes, unpasteurized milk and milk products, and some processed foods. Although pasteurization and sufficient cooking will kill Listeria, contamination often occurs after cooking and before packaging. Listeriosis is a disease primarily affecting pregnant women, newborns, adults with compromised immune systems, and the elderly. The two most common life-threatening symptoms are sepsis and meningitis. This is a serious disease with a relatively high mortality that can reach 25%.

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