Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Listeria is a bacterium that is found in soil, water and animals like cattle and chicken. It can be present in raw milk as well as products made from raw milk. This bacterium can also be found in food processing plants where it leads to contamination of the processed meat.

Listeria is different from the other food borne bacteria, as it can survive and even thrive in cold temperatures and salty surroundings. It rarely causes serious illness in the healthy population. However, in some populations like pregnant women, infants and new born, elderly people, patients with compromised immune systems like those with cancer, AIDS, liver or renal disease, this infection can be fatal.

Can You Completely Cure Listeria?

What is the treatment of listeria and can you be cured of the infection?The treatment of listeria infection depends on the nature of your symptoms and if you are part of the patient population who are at greater risk to the bacteria.

For the majority of the population, the listeria infection clears on its own similar to the way the body fights the flu virus. Most patients experience a spontaneous recovery from about seven days to a few weeks with proper rest and care. However, for those patients who are at an increased risk, prompt medical treatment is necessary to prevent, stop, or slow down the development of more severe disease. Especially in such patient populations, the prognosis depends on how much the infection has spread before the treatment was initiated. For example, in the pregnant women, if the treatment is started at a stage where the placenta has already been infected with listeria, the chances of fetal mortality and comorbidities are higher. Similarly in other immune-compromised patients, if the listeria infection has spread to the brain region and resulted in meningitis or encephalitis, then probability of a successful of recovery is reduced. If however, an intravenous antibiotic treatment is started early on in the disease progression, then the chances of a complete recovery are high.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Listeria Infection?

People who are infected with Listeria generally demonstrate the signs and symptoms of a typical food poisoning episode. These patients generally complain of fever with chills and muscle pain and stiffness. Some patients complain of flu-like symptoms like nausea, vomiting and painful diarrhea and abdominal cramps. There are times when the infection spreads to the nervous system and causes headaches, confusion and disorientation. In pregnant women, the symptoms of the infection resemble the early pregnancy symptoms of morning sickness and weakness. This makes it difficult to distinguish and so causes delay in diagnosis in the population.

If your healthcare provider suspects you have a listeria infection, they will order a bacterial culture from your biological fluid or tissues to confirm this diagnosis.

How Can You Prevent Listeria?

If you are part of the population who is at greater risk of listeria infection, then there are certain precautions you can take at your end to avoid getting infected. Firstly, you should not consume any unpasteurized milk or its products. You should cook your raw fruits and vegetables as well as you are ready to eat food products at high heat (greater than 74°C) for a minimum period of two minutes. If you use a microwave to heat your food, make sure to heat it continuously till the food is piping hot instead of heating it at small bursts of 30 seconds.

For those fruits and vegetables that need to be consumed raw, you need to wash them in a special manner. First soak or spray the food with white vinegar. After a few minutes, spray or soak them in a solution of hydrogen peroxide. Lastly, rinse the food with running tap water and store in the freezer. You should also apply this mixture of white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide to your kitchen counter to disinfect it and avoid any future listeria contaminations.

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: November 26, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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