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: Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP
    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.

  • 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.

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Quick GuideBacterial Infections 101: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments

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What is the prognosis for Listeria infections?

Since most infections go unnoticed or only produce minor symptoms, the prognosis is excellent. However, the prognosis for people with altered or impaired immune systems range from good (with early appropriate therapy) to poor, depending on how debilitated the patient is when first infected.

The pregnant woman usually has a good prognosis. However, her fetus or newborn has a good to guarded prognosis, again depending how quickly the mother or newborn is effectively treated.

If a person has eaten recalled food potentially contaminated with Listeria, what should he or she do?

The CDC recommends the following to all people. If the person has no symptoms, they recommend no tests or treatment be done. However, if the person is in a high-risk group (see risk factor section above), they recommend contacting the person's physician only if the person develops fever or signs of serious illness within two months of eating the food. The CDC makes these conservative suggestions based on the fact that the chance of developing Listeria infection, even after ingestion of a contaminated product, is very small.

However, people in the high-risk groups should have no delays in contacting their doctor if they suspect symptoms of listeriosis are developing.

What is the government doing about listeriosis?

The following is information modified from the CDC web site in response to the above question.

Government agencies and the food industry have taken steps to reduce contamination of food by the Listeria bacterium. The Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture monitor food regularly. When a processed food is found to be contaminated, food monitoring and plant inspection are intensified, and if necessary, the implicated food is recalled.

The Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases (CCID) is studying listeriosis in several states to help measure the impact of prevention activities and recognize trends in disease occurrence. CCID also assists local health departments in investigating outbreaks. Early detection and reporting of outbreaks of listeriosis to local and state health departments can help identify sources of infection and prevent more cases of the disease.

In addition, the FDA publishes its list of product recalls on the Internet, and the site is frequently updated. The following web site will allow individuals to check on specific products and describe how to identify them:


Guillet, C., O. Join-Lambert, A. Le Monnier, et al. "Human Listeriosis Caused by Listeria ivanovii." Emerg Infect Dis 16.1 Jan. 2010. <>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Listeria (Listeriosis)." Mar. 16, 2015. <>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Listeria (Listeriosis): Diagnosis." Jan. 2, 2013. <>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Listeria Outbreaks." May 3, 2016. <>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Blue Bell Creameries Products." Apr. 8, 2015. <>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Associated with Jensen Farms Cantaloupe --- United States, August--September 2011." MMWR 60.39 Oct. 7, 2011: 1357-1358. <>.

United States. Food and Drug Administration. "Listeria." <>.

United States. Food and Drug Administration. "Sabra Dipping Company Issues Nationwide Voluntary Recall of Select SKUs of Its Classic Hummus." Apr. 10, 2015. <>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/2/2016

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