Listeria is a genus of bacteria that contains ten species. Named after the English pioneer of sterile surgery Joseph Lister, the genus received its current name in 1940. Listeria species are facultatively anaerobic, Gram-positivebacilli. The major human pathogen in the Listeria genus is L. monocytogenes. It is usually the causative agent of the relatively rare bacterial disease, listeriosis, a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria. The disease affects primarily pregnant women, newborns, adults with weakened immune systems, and the elderly.
Listeriosis is a serious disease for humans; the overt form of the disease has a mortality rate of about 20 percent. The two main clinical manifestations are sepsis and meningitis. Meningitis is often complicated by encephalitis, a pathology that is unusual for bacterial infections. Listeria ivanovii is a pathogen of mammals, specifically ruminants, and has rarely caused listeriosis in humans.
The first documented case of Listeria was in 1924. In the late 1920s, two researchers independently identified Listeria monocytogenes from animal outbreaks. They proposed the genus Listerella in honor of surgeon and early antiseptic advocate Joseph Lister; however, that name was already in use for a slime mold and a protozoan. Eventually, the genus Listeria was proposed and accepted. All species within the Listeria genus are Gram-positive, nonsporeforming, catalase-positive rods. The genus Listeria was classified in the family Corynebacteriaceae through the seventh edition of Bergey's Manual of Systematic Bacteriology. The 16S rRNA cataloging studies of Stackebrandt, et al. demonstrated that L. monocytogenes is a distinct taxon within the Lactobacillus-Bacillus branch of the bacterial phylogeny constructed by Woese. In 2004, the genus was placed in the newly created Family Listeriaceae. The only other genus in the family is Brochothrix.
The genus Listeria currently contains ten species: L. fleischmannii, L. grayi, L. innocua, L. ivanovii, L. marthii, L. monocytogenes, L. rocourtiae, L. seeligeri, L. weihenstephanensis and L. welshimeri.Listeria dinitrificans, previously thought to be part of the Listeria genus, was reclassified into the new genus Jonesia. Under the microscope, Listeria species appear as small, Gram-positive rods, which are sometimes arranged in short chains. In direct smears, they may be coccoid, so they can be mistaken for streptococci. Longer cells may resemble corynebacteria. Flagella are produced at room temperature, but not at 37 °C. Hemolytic activity on blood agar has been used as a marker to distinguish L. monocytogenes among other Listeria species, but it is not an absolutely definitive criterion. Further biochemical characterization may be necessary to distinguish between the different species of Listeria.
Listeria can be found in soil, which can lead to vegetable contamination. Animals can also be carriers. Listeria has been found in uncooked meats, uncooked vegetables, fruit such as cantaloupes, pasteurized or unpasteurized milk, foods made from milk, and processed foods. Pasteurization and sufficient cooking kill Listeria; however, contamination may occur after cooking and before packaging. For example, meat-processing plants producing ready-to-eat foods, such as hot dogs and deli meats, must follow extensive sanitation policies and procedures to prevent Listeria contamination.Listeria monocytogenes is commonly found in soil, stream water, sewage, plants, and food.Listeria is responsible for listeriosis, a rare but potentially lethal food-borne infection. The case fatality rate for those with a severe form of infection may approach 25%. (Salmonella, in comparison, has a mortality rate estimated at less than 1%.) Although Listeria monocytogenes has low infectivity, it is hardy and can grow in temperatures from 4 °C (39.2 °F) (the temperature of a refrigerator), to 37 °C (98.6 °F), (the body's internal temperature). Listeriosis is a serious illness, and the disease may manifest as meningitis, or affect newborns due to its ability to penetrate the endothelial layer of the placenta.
Listeria uses the cellular machinery to move around inside the host cell: It induces directed polymerization of actin by the ActA transmembrane protein, thus pushing the bacterial cell around.
Listeria monocytogenes, for example, encodes virulence genes that are thermoregulated. The expression of virulence factor is optimal at 39 °C, and is controlled by a transcriptional activator, PrfA, whose expression is thermoregulated by the PrfA thermoregulator UTR element. At low temperatures, the PrfA transcript is not translated due to structural elements near the ribosome binding site. As the bacteria infect the host, the temperature of the host melts the structure and allows translation initiation for the virulent genes.
The majority of Listeria bacteria are targeted by the immune system before they are able to cause infection. Those that escape the immune system's initial response, however, spread through intracellular mechanisms and are, therefore, guarded against circulating immune factors (AMI).
Listeria must then navigate to the cell's periphery to spread the infection to other cells. Outside the body, Listeria has flagellar-driven motility, sometimes described as a "tumbling motility". However, at 37 °C, flagella cease to develop and the bacterium instead usurps the host cell's cytoskeleton to move.Listeria, inventively, polymerizes an actin tail or "comet", from actin monomers in the host's cytoplasm  with the promotion of virulence factor ActA. The comet forms in a polar manner  and aids the bacteria's migration to the host cell's outer membrane. Gelsolin, an actin filament severing protein, localizes at the tail of Listeria and accelerates the bacterium's motility. Once at the cell surface, the actin-propelled Listeria pushes against the cell's membrane to form protrusions called filopods or "rockets". The protrusions are guided by the cell's leading edge  to contact adjacent cells, which then engulf the listeria rocket and the process is repeated, perpetuating the infection. Once phagocytosed, the bacterium is never again extracellular: it is an intracytoplasmic parasite  like Shigella flexneri and Rickettsia.
Preventing listeriosis as a food illness requires effective sanitation of food contact surfaces. Alcohol is an effective topical sanitizer against Listeria. Quaternary ammonium can be used in conjunction with alcohol as a food contact safe sanitizer with increased duration of the sanitizing action. Refrigerated foods in the home should be kept below 4 °C (39.2 °F) to discourage bacterial growth. Preventing listeriosis also can be done by carrying out an effective sanitation of food contact surfaces.
In non-invasive listeriosis, the bacteria will often remain within the digestive tract, causing mild symptoms lasting only a few days and requiring only supportive care. Muscle pain and fever in mild cases can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers, and diarrhea and gastroenteritis can be treated with over-the-counter medications if needed.
Prompt treatment of listeria infections in pregnancy is critical to prevent the bacteria from infecting the fetus, and antibiotics may be given to pregnant women even in non-invasive listeriosis. These oral therapies in less severe cases can include amoxicillin or erythromycin. In addition to antibiotic therapy, it often recommended that infected pregnant women receive ultrasounds to monitor the health of the fetus. Higher doses of antibiotics are sometimes given to pregnant women to ensure penetration of the umbilical cord and placenta.
Asymptomatic patients who have been exposed to listeria are not recommended for treatment. It is recommended that these patients be informed of the signs and symptoms of the disease and to return for medical care if symptoms present.
Listeria is an opportunistic pathogen: It is most prevalent in the elderly, pregnant mothers, and AIDS patients. With improved healthcare leading to a growing elderly population and extended life expectancies for AIDS patients, physicians are more likely to encounter this otherwise-rare infection (only 7 per 1,000,000 healthy people are infected with virulent Listeria each year). Better understanding the cell biology of Listeria infections, including relevant virulence factors, may lead to better treatments for listeriosis and other intracytoplasmic parasite infections. Researchers are now investigating the use of Listeria as a cancer vaccine, taking advantage of its "ability to induce potent innate and adaptive immunity."
^Singleton P (1999). Bacteria in Biology, Biotechnology and Medicine (5th ed.). Wiley. pp. 444–454. ISBN0-471-98880-4.
^Christelle Guillet, Olivier Join-Lambert, Alban Le Monnier, Alexandre Leclercq, Frédéric Mechaï, Marie-France Mamzer-Bruneel, Magdalena K. Bielecka, Mariela Scortti, Olivier Disson, Patrick Berche, José Vazquez-Boland, Olivier Lortholary, and Marc Lecuit. Human Listeriosis Caused by Listeria ivanovii. Emerg Infect Dis. 2010 January; 16(1): 136–138.
^Elliot T. Ryser, Elmer H. Marth. Listeria, Listeriosis, and Food Safety. Second edition. Elmer Marth. 1999.
^M. D. Collins, S. Wallbanks, D. J. Lane, J. Shah, R. Nietupskin, J. Smida, M. Dorsch and E. Stackebrandt. Phylogenetic Analysis of the Genus Listeria Based on Reverse Transcriptase Sequencing of 16S rRNA. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. April 1991 vol. 41 no. 2 240–246
^Smith, G. A.; Portnoy D. A. (July 1997). "Trends in Microbiology". How the Listeria monocytogenes ActA protein converts actin polymerization into a motile force (Cell Press) 5 (7, number 7): 272–276. doi:10.1016/S0966-842X(97)01048-2. PMID9234509.
Zhifa Liu, Changhe Yuan, Stephen B. Pruett (2012). "Machine learning analysis of the relationship between changes in immunological parameters and changes in resistance to Listeria monocytogenes: a new approach for risk assessment and systems immunology". Toxicol Sci.129: 1:57–73. doi:10.1093/toxsci/kfs201.
Bredholt S., Maukonen J., Kujanpaa K., Alanko T., Olofson U., Husmark U., Sjoberg A. M., Wirtanen G. (1999). "Microbial methods for assessment of cleaning and disinfection of food-processing surfaces cleaned in a low-pressure system". European Food Research and Technology209 (2): 145–152. doi:10.1007/s002170050474.
Chae M. S., Schraft H. (2000). "Comparative evaluation of adhesion and biofilm formation of different Listeria monocytogenes strains". International Journal of Food Microbiology62: 103–111. doi:10.1016/S0168-1605(00)00406-2.
Chen Y. H., Jackson K. M., Chea F. P., Schaffner D. W. (2001). "Quantification and variability analysis of bacterial cross-contamination rates in common food service tasks". Journal of Food Protection64: 72–80.
Foschino R., Picozzi C., Civardi A., Bandini M., Faroldi P. (2003). "Comparison of surface sampling methods and cleanability assessment of stainless steel surfaces subjected or not to shot peening". Journal of Food Engineering60 (4): 375–381. doi:10.1016/S0260-8774(03)00060-8.
Frank, J. F. 2001. "Microbial attachment to food and food contact surfaces". In: Advances in Food and Nutrition Research, Vol. 43. ed. Taylor, S. L. San Diego, CA. Academic Press., Inc. 320–370.
Gasanov U., Hughes D., Hansbro P. M. (2005). "Methods for the isolation and identification of Listeria spp. and Listeria monocytogenes: a review". FEMS Microbiology Reviews29 (5): 851–875. doi:10.1016/j.femsre.2004.12.002. PMID16219509.
Gombas D. E., Chen Y., Clavero R. S., Scott V. N. (2003). "Survey of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods". Journal of Food Protection66 (4): 559–569. PMID12696677.
Helke D. M., Somers E. B., Wong A. C. L. (1993). "Attachment of Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella typhimurium to stainless steel and Buna-N-rubber surfaces in the presence of milk and individual milk components". Journal of Food Protection56: 479–484.
Kalmokoff M. L., Austin J. W., Wan X. D., Sanders G., Banerjee S., Farber J. M. (2001). "Adsorption, attachment and biofilm formation among isolates of Listeria monocytogenes using model condit ions". Journal of Applied Microbiology91 (4): 725–34. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2672.2001.01419.x.
Kusumaningrum H. D., Riboldi G., Hazeleger W. C., Beumer R. R. (2003). "Survival of foodborne pathogens on stainless steel surfaces and cross-contamination to foods". International Journal of Food Microbiology85 (3): 227–236. doi:10.1016/S0168-1605(02)00540-8. PMID12878381.
Lin C., Takeuchi K., Zhang L., Dohm C. B., Meyer J. D., Hall P. A., Doyle M. P. (2006). "Cross-contamination between processing equipment and deli meats by Listeria monocytogenes". Journal of Food Protection69: 559–569.
Montville R., Chen Y. H., Schaffner D. W. (2001). "Glove barriers to bacterial cross contamination between hands to food". Journal of Food Protection64 (6): 845–849. PMID11403136.
Moore G., Griffith C., Fielding L. (2001). "A comparison of traditional and recently developed methods for monitoring surface hygiene within the food industry: a laboratory study". Dairy, Food, and Environmental Sanitation21: 478–488.
Moore G., Griffith C. (2002a). "Factors influencing recovery of microorganisms from surfaces by use of traditional hygiene swabbing". Dairy, Food, and Environmental Sanitation22: 410–421.
Salo S., Laine A., Alanko T., Sjoberg A. M., Wirtanen G. (2000). "Validation of the microbiological methods Hygicult dipsilde, contact plate, and swabbing in surface hygiene control: a Nordic collaborative study". Journal of AOAC International83 (6): 1357–1365. PMID11128138.
Seymour I. J., Burfoot D., Smith R. L., Cox L. A., Lockwood A. (2002). "Ultrasound decontamination of minimally processed fruits and vegetables". International Journal of Food Science and Technology37 (5): 547–557. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2621.2002.00613.x.
Stanford C. M., Srikantha R., Wu C. D. (1997). "Efficacy of the Sonicare toothbrush fluid dynamic action on removal of supragingival plaque". Journal of Clinical Dentistry8 (1): 10–14.
Vorst K. L., Todd E. C. D., Ryser E. T. (2004). "Improved quantitative recovery of Listeria monocytogenes from stainless steel surfaces using a one-ply composite tissue". Journal of Food Protection67 (10): 2212–2217. PMID15508632.
Whyte W., Carson W., Hambraeus A. (1989). "Methods for calculating the efficiency of bacterial surface sampling techniques". Journal of Hospital Infection13 (1): 33–41. doi:10.1016/0195-6701(89)90093-5. PMID2564016.
Wu-Yuan C. D., Anderson R. D. (1994). "Ability of the SonicareÆ electronic toothbrush to generate dynamic fluid activity that removes bacteria". The Journal of Clinical Dentistry5 (3): 89–93.
Zhao P., Zhao T., Doyle M. P., Rubino J. R., Meng J. (1998). "Development of a model for evaluation of microbial cross-contamination in the kitchen". Journal of Food Protection61 (8): 960–963. PMID9713754.
Zottola E. A., Sasahara K. C. (1994). "Microbial biofilms in the food processing industry ñ should they be a concern?". International Journal of Food Microbiology23 (2): 125–148. doi:10.1016/0168-1605(94)90047-7. PMID7848776.