Magazine article USA TODAY

Testing for Deadly Bacteria

Magazine article USA TODAY

Testing for Deadly Bacteria

Article excerpt

Most food poisoning is unpleasant, but some types are life-threatening. Consumption of food contaminated with the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes can cause a fatal illness--listeriosis. In the U.S., there are 1,850 cases and 460 deaths per year.

Consumption of certain foods is linked to increased risk for listeriosis. Soft cheeses and deli meats top the list, though Listeria can be found in almost all food types. The organism present in soil and groundwater can find its way onto vegetation eaten by animals. Even healthy creatures can carry Listeria in their intestinal tracts, as part of the bacterial microflora. Its ubiquitous nature makes introduction into food processing environments routine, making detection and control vital.

Although healthy people are relatively resistant to Listeria, infection frequently is fatal to the very old, anyone who is immunocompromised, and fetuses. As the mean age of the population rises and immunocompromising diseases such as cancer and AIDS increase in frequency, there is a rise in the number of people at risk.

Testing for Listeria usually involves sampling foods and monitoring the food processing environment. …

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