A Processing Plant Persistent Strain of Listeria monocytogenes Crosses the Fetoplacental Barrier in a Pregnant Guinea Pig Model

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The foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes can cause infection in immunocompromised humans and in the fetuses of pregnant women. We have demonstrated that one group of genetically similar L. monocytogenes strains (random amplified polymorphic DNA [RAPD] type 9) dominate and persist in several independent fish processing plants. The purpose of the present study was to determine the virulence potential of one RAPD type 9 strain (La111), one human clinical strain (Scott A), and one monkey clinical strain (12443) in a pregnant guinea pig model. Animals were orally exposed to 108 CFU of L. monocytogenes in whipping cream on gestation day (GD) 36 and euthanized on GD 42, 45, or 56. Strains 12443 and Scott A were shed from treated animals for 20 days, whereas La111 was shed only in the first 10 days. Strains 12443 and Scott A were recovered from maternal liver, spleen, and gallbladder on all 3 days of euthanization, whereas La111 was recovered only at GD 45 and 56. Scott A was not isolated from any placentas or fetuses. For dams treated with 12443, 22% of the fetuses were positive for L. monocytogenes, and surprisingly, treatment of dams with La111 resulted in 56% infected fetuses. L. monocytogenes was isolated from 16 and 20% of placentas for 12443 and La111, respectively. The study demonstrates that a food processing plant persistent strain of L. monocytogenes is able to cross the fetoplacental barrier in pregnant guinea pigs. Furthermore, we demonstrate that although information can be gained from model virulence assays, assessment of the virulence potential of a strain may require more complex hosts.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Seafood Research, National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Technical University of Denmark, Søltofts Plads Building 221, DK-2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark 2: Department of Environmental Health Science and Center for Food Safety, University of Georgia, 206 Environmental Health Science Building, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2008

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