First-ever global Listeria report released

Listeria_BLOGThe World Health Organization (WHO) recently released the first-ever Global Listeria Report which concluded that in 2010 Listeria monocytogenes infected an estimated 23,150 people worldwide, killing 5,463 or 23.65% of them.

The study, known as “The Global Burden of Listeriosis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases and according to a recent article, was the first of its kind “to estimate the global numbers of illnesses, deaths, and disability-adjusted life-years due to Listeria infections.”

Of the total infected, the report also states that 20.7% of them were pregnant women, as the bacteria is known to affect pregnant women at disproportionate rates. From the total number of pregnant women infected, 14.9% of these cases resulted in infant fatality.

Based on this and other data collected, researchers are saying an urgent effort is needed to fill in information on Listeria infections, especially in developing countries, as 48% of the world’s population lives in countries that do not report Listeria illnesses.

Although not as common as other foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli, Listeria is one of the most deadly and adaptable bacteria found in food because it can grow at refrigeration temperatures and in low-moisture environments, unlike other food pathogens. Also, according to the article, Listeria is third-most costly foodborne pathogen in the U.S. due to its high hospitalization rate.

The article also states that the report found Listeria cases are mostly reported in high-income countries, while cases are much more likely to go unreported in developing countries. Researchers also found that Listeria caused the highest burden on quality of life in Latin American regions, Southeast Asia, Africa, Polynesia and India. The least affected region was Eastern Europe, stretching from Poland to Turkey, with the number of those infected in the U.S. “somewhere in between.”

“The effort to quantify the global burden of Listeria will enable listeriosis to be an included disease in WHO’s international prioritization exercises. But because nearly half of the world’s population resides in countries where Listeria isn’t reported, there’s still significant uncertainty about the exact burden the bacteria pose worldwide,” the article states.

Ready-to-eat lunch deli meats, hot dogs, meat spreads, unpasteurized dairy, smoked seafood and raw sprouts are some of the most common sources of Listeria in the U.S. and resulted in one of the deadliest foodborne illness outbreaks in U.S. history. This occurred in 2011 when contaminated cantaloupe infected at least 147 people, killing 33. More recently, a Listeria outbreak in Denmark this year sickened 38 people, killing at least 15.

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