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What is listeriosis?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Listeriosis is an infection that occurs when you ingest the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria is commonly found in the environment, in both domestic and wild animals and in the ground and water, so it's possible for the Listeria bacteria to contaminate food products. If a person eats food contaminated with Listeria, there is a chance that they would become ill. Listeriosis is very dangerous to unborn children; pregnant women who contract listeriosis can pass the infection through the placenta and put the baby's life at risk.

Listeriosis is a rare but serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria called Listeria. Listeriosis mostly affects pregnant women, newborn infants, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. In pregnant women, listeriosis can result in premature labor and fetal loss (miscarriage or stillbirth). In newborn infants and adults, listeriosis usually causes infections of the bloodstream (septicemia) or central nervous system (meningitis). About 20% of listeriosis cases are fatal. Listeriosis can be prevented by learning what foods to avoid and how to safely prepare and store food.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.