Members of the Genus Listeria are ubiquitous environmental saprophytic microorganisms. If ingested they can cause a severe disseminated disease (listeriosis) that has a high mortality rate, the highest of any food-borne pathogen, even with antibiotic therapy. Central to the high mortality rate is the hallmark characteristic of the microorganism to grow intracellularly. The presence of listeriae in food processing plants has resulted in many outbreaks of human disease and large scale recalls of processed foods. Despite the ubiquity of the microorganism, the actual disease rate (those animals showing disease signs over those exposed) is quite low and disease is almost always associated with an underlying predisposition (pregnancy being the most common in otherwise normal individuals). There are many features of the pathogenesis of listeriosis that have remained mysterious despite the extensive use of the microorganism in the study of cell-mediated immunity and intracellular growth. Informational advances such as the sequence of the mouse and listerial genomes, and technical advances such as the discovery of listeria-susceptible mouse strains, may renew interest in the study of the natural pathogenesis of the disease. This may be further facilitated by studies that employ the natural inoculation route and mimic common predisposing conditions witnessed in victims of natural outbreaks.