The risk involved with Listeriosis

Listeria, a food-borne bacteria on the prowl, has been making rounds in international media. Recent outbreaks of Listeriosis in the US claimed three lives after it was taken into account that a listeria-infected milkshake was consumed. According to the US FDA, ready-to-eat sandwiches, salads, chocolates, yogurts, and wraps were all under the lens for possible listeria contamination. Reports have also emerged from the UK and Australia about the recent outbreak of Listeriosis. There have been recent recalls of chocolates, milkshakes, frozen corn, etc., in the past, and news has also emerged that people have died while consuming certain products.


What is listeria?

Listeria monocytogenes is the causative agent of Listeriosis and is mainly associated with food-borne outbreaks worldwide. The bacteria can cause sepsis, febrile gastroenteritis, stillbirth, abortions, and meningoencephalitis. In India, researchers have found Listeria in foods, soil, vegetables, mangrove swamps, fish (both seafood and freshwater), and some insects. The bacteria have been isolated from women with spontaneous abortions, miscarriages, etc. Pregnant women are more likely to get infected with the disease than healthy adults. The chances of contracting the infection are high for people with less immunity and suffer from AIDs, cancer, diabetes, and kidney disease. The bacterial illness leads to septicemia, abortion, stillbirth, perinatal infections, meningitis, gastroenteritis, and meningoencephalitis and is more common in immuno-compromised individuals and the elderly.


Way to prevent Listeriosis

Listeriosis is a preventable and curable disease. However, one should remember that raw food from animal sources such as poultry and red meat should be thoroughly washed and cooked properly before consumption. The same goes for vegetables, too. Raw, unpasteurised milk should be avoided. Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics to treat severe forms of Listeriosis and meningitis.


The outlook

Though there have been not many reports regarding the outbreak of Listeriosis in India, one needs to watch the symptoms and report it to their physician constantly. One reason for the low number of cases may be due to the cooking pattern of India, where we usually avoid cold refrigerated foods and instead insist on freshly cooked hot foods.