F. Allerberger and M. Wagner, Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES), Binational Austrian–German Listeria Reference Centre, Vienna and Institute for Milk Hygiene, Milk Technology and Food Science, Department for Farm Animals and Public Veterinary Health, Vienna, Austria.
Listeria monocytogenes is the causative agent of human listeriosis, a potentially fatal foodborne infection. Clinical manifestations range from febrile gastroenteritis to more severe invasive forms, including sepsis, meningitis, rhombencephalitis, perinatal infections, and abortions. In recent years, an increasing rate of listeriosis has been reported in several European countries. These increases primarily reflect a higher rate of bacteraemic listeriosis in those ≥65 years of age, and are not otherwise correlated with geography, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic factors or infectious serotypes. In the late 1980s, an upsurge in listeriosis rates was due to the contamination of a small number of food products. However, a restricted range of strains was responsible for most of the additional cases at that time, and no evidence exists for such a pattern since 2001. From a clinical perspective, the importance of isolating the pathogen as a prerequisite for an accurate epidemiological investigation and ultimately stopping transmission cannot be overemphasized.