Does sporadic Listeria gastroenteritis exist? A 2-year population-based survey in Nova Scotia, Canada

Clin Infect Dis. 2005 Sep 15;41(6):778-84. doi: 10.1086/432724. Epub 2005 Aug 15.


Background: Febrile gastroenteritis due to Listeria monocytogenes (LM) has been primarily described in foodborne outbreaks. We decided to determine the incidence of sporadic, febrile gastroenteritis due to LM in a large, well-defined North American population over a 2-year period and to compare these cases to sporadic cases of Campylobacter and Salmonella infections occurring concurrently in the community.

Methods: From 1 September 2002 through 31 August 2004, all stool specimens submitted for evaluation of diarrheal illness to a public health laboratory and to a children's hospital serving a population of approximately 350,000 were examined for the presence of Listeria species. Patients identified as having LM in their stool samples were matched with 2 temporally-matched patients with cultures positive for Campylobacter and Salmonella species. Patients with LM and control patients were contacted by telephone, and they answered a questionnaire that examined clinical features and risk factors for diarrheal illness.

Results: A total of 7775 stool specimens were submitted during the period 1 September 2002-31 August 2004. Thirty-nine Listeria species were recovered. Seventeen of the species were LM, 13 were Listeria innocua, 3 were Listeria welshimeri, 1 was Listeria grayi, and 4 were other species. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis results demonstrated no temporal or other clusters, and no seasonality was noted for isolates of LM. Preexisting gastrointestinal problems were much more common in patients with LM (P=.001) than in patients with Campylobacter or Salmonella infections.

Conclusions: Sporadic gastroenteritis due to LM appears to be an uncommon illness, and routine screening of stool samples for LM remains unwarranted. Preexisting gastrointestinal disease may be a risk factor for infection of the gastrointestinal tract with LM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Female
  • Gastroenteritis / epidemiology*
  • Gastroenteritis / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Listeriosis / diagnosis*
  • Listeriosis / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nova Scotia / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors