Listeriosis (Listeria monocytogenes Infection)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Quick GuideBacterial Infections 101: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments

Bacterial Infections 101: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments

What are listeriosis symptoms and signs?

  • Fever, muscle aches, and occasionally, gastroenteritis (nausea and/or diarrhea) are the usual symptoms associated with listeriosis.
  • Some individuals may also experience fatigue and a decrease or loss of appetite.
  • These symptoms usually last up to one week and may spontaneously resolve.

However, in some people, the organisms can spread to the brain.

What is the incubation period for Listeria?

The incubation period between exposure and symptoms is quite variable (three to 70 days, with 21 days as average) and may extend up to about two months or more according to some reports.

Pregnant women who are otherwise healthy usually have only minor symptoms. However, being infected with Listeria during pregnancy often cause problems for the fetus:

  • miscarriage,
  • stillbirth,
  • premature birth, or
  • cause infection and,
  • potentially, death of newborns.

Breastfeeding in humans has not been shown to transmit the bacteria to newborns; however, animal studies show the organisms are transferred in breast milk of other mammalian species. Researchers consider it is theoretically possible for the organisms to be transmitted in human breast milk.

Occasionally, localized skin infections may occur, especially in people who handle animals that are infected with Listeria. These skin infections rarely lead to further complications such as brain infection.

How long does a Listeria infection last?

Normal healthy people who become infected with Listeria usually recover from the infection. However, more serious infections that require antibiotic treatment may last longer. For example, if abscesses develop in the brain, the antibiotic therapy will be required for about six weeks.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/6/2017

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