Listeria--review of epidemiology and pathogenesis

J Microbiol Immunol Infect. 2007 Feb;40(1):4-13.


Listeria monocytogenes (commonly called Listeria) is a Gram-positive facultatively intracellular foodborne pathogen often found in food and elsewhere in nature. It can cause a rare but serious disease called listeriosis, especially among pregnant women, the elderly or individuals with a weakened immune system. In serious cases, it can lead to brain infection and even death. Listeria is more likely to cause death than other bacteria that cause food poisoning. In fact, 20 to 30% of food borne listeriosis infections in high-risk individuals may be fatal. Recent technological developments have increased the ability of scientists to identify the cause of foodborne illnesses. L. monocytogenes has been used as a model organism for the study of intracellular parasitism. Whilst the basic mechanisms of cellular pathogenesis have been elucidated by a series of elegant studies, recent research has begun to focus upon the gastrointestinal phase of L. monocytogenes infection. Epidemiological studies of outbreaks of human disease now demonstrate that the pathogen can cause gastroenteritis in the absence of invasive disease and associated mortality. Elucidation of whole genome sequences and virulence determinants have greatly contributed to understanding of the organism and its infection pathways.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Gastroenteritis / pathology
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Listeria monocytogenes* / classification
  • Listeria monocytogenes* / genetics
  • Listeria monocytogenes* / pathogenicity
  • Listeriosis / epidemiology*
  • Listeriosis / physiopathology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Virulence