LISTERIA monocytogenes has been recognized as a human pathogen for more than 50 years; it causes illness mainly in pregnant women, newborns, elderly persons, and immunocompromised persons. The organism is found in multiple ecological sites and throughout the food chain, and anecdotal reports have linked human illness with the ingestion of foods contaminated with Listeria.1 More recently, it has been shown to cause outbreaks of illness that were associated with commercial food products.2-5 The Food and Drug Administration has recommended product recalls when L monocytogenes has been identified in commercial foods that are available for consumption without further cooking. Although recalls have generated widespread public concern, information about the magnitude of risk and the clinical presentations of disease has not been widely available to the medical community. This article reviews the history, microbiology, ecology, pathogenesis, epidemiology, and clinical spectrum of human illnesses caused by L monocytogenes and highlights
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