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Low Prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes in Human Stool

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Listeria monocytogenes is a foodborne pathogen that is found widely in the environment and in a variety of ready-to-eat foods, yet human invasive infection is relatively rare (five cases per million people annually in the United States). Despite wide exposure to this organism, little is known about the prevalence of L. monocytogenes in human stool, and it is not known whether human fecal dispersal contributes to human foodborne transmission. We cultured 827 stool specimens (well formed and loose-watery) from individuals from four large metropolitan areas of New York state for L. monocytogenes and found only 1 (0.12%) positive specimen. L. monocytogenes was also isolated from the blood of the person with the single positive specimen, and the two isolates were indistinguishable by molecular subtyping (both were ribotype DUP-1042B). This provides further evidence that human L. monocytogenes fecal carriage among persons with and without diarrheal disease is remarkably low. Unlike the case for other foodborne pathogens (e.g., Salmonella), human shedders probably do not contribute significantly to L. monocytogenes contamination of foods. However, we observed a single individual with invasive listeriosis that shed the pathogen in feces, indicating the potential for fecal dispersal of L. monocytogenes from persons with listeriosis.

Document Type: Short Communication

Affiliations: 1: Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA 2: Upstate Medical Center, State University of New York, Syracuse, New York 13210, USA 3: Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, New York 10467, USA 4: Albany Medical Center, Albany, New York 12208, USA 5: Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Kaleida Health, Williamsville, New York 14221, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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