Listeria infection

Listeria infection

A Listeria infection, also known as listeriosis, is a serious bacterial illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria is commonly found in soil, water, animal manure, and in some processed foods. Listeriosis can cause serious illness, including meningitis and sepsis, in pregnant women, newborn babies, elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems.

Most people with healthy immune systems rarely become sick from eating food contaminated with Listeria. However, food contaminated with listeria can cause mild to severe illness, including high fever, nausea, and abdominal pain among others.


Symptoms of listeria infection vary depending on the type of exposure. Symptoms in otherwise healthy individuals can include:

  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Complications

    The most serious complications of listeria infection include meningitis and sepsis. In pregnant women, listeria infection can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or infection of the newborn baby. Additionally, people with weakened immune systems may develop severe complications, including bacteremia and paralysis.


    To diagnose listeriosis, a doctor will take a sample of blood, cerebrospinal fluid, or urine to look for evidence of the bacteria. In pregnant women, amniocentesis may be necessary to diagnose the infection.


    Most people recover from listeria infection without treatment, but those with weakened immune systems may need to be hospitalized and treated with antibiotics. Treatment should begin as soon as the infection is diagnosed to prevent serious complications. Antibiotics that can be used to treat listeria include ampicillin, ceftriaxone, and vancomycin.


    The best way to prevent listeria infection is to take steps to reduce exposure to the bacteria. This includes washing raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly, avoiding raw foods and unpasteurized dairy products, and cooking food to the proper temperature. Additionally, pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems should avoid high-risk foods, including soft cheeses, cold smoked fish, and processed meats.