Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Listeria is a bacterium that causes an infection known as listeriosis. People get infected with the listeria infection when they eat foods that are contaminated with the bacteria. It can be found in a wide variety of foods ranging from raw meat, ready-to-eat processed foods, unpasteurized milk, and products as well as uncooked vegetables. The bacteria is unique and different from other food-borne bacteria in that it can grow in cold refrigerating temperatures, in general, listeria affects the human body by causing food poisoning. In addition to that, it can affect different parts of the body including the brain, bloodstream, and spinal cord membranes.

How Does Listeria Affect The Body?

How Does Listeria Affect The Body?

Once you have consumed foods infected with the listeria monocytogenes bacteria, then there is a high likelihood that you will develop listeriosis. For healthy individuals, the chances are much lower and may exhibit few symptoms or none at all. However, the risk is higher for individuals with certain risk factors such as other diseases, pregnancy, or a weak immune system. Once the bacteria are in your body, it may take about three to seventy days for you to show any signs of infection. The first symptoms you are likely to experience include; fever, diarrhea, nausea and muscle aches. If the bacterium spreads to the nervous system, then the patient is also likely to have symptoms such as loss of balance, headaches, convulsions, stiff neck and confusion.

In pregnant women, they show symptoms including a flu-like illness that is often mild. Adding to that, the listeria infection can lead to miscarriages, premature birth or stillbirths. Listeria bacteria are spread to the unborn child through the placenta, and the baby is faced with some life-threatening circumstances once it is born. The baby can either develop a serious infection on the first few days or die thereafter. Older adults are susceptible to serious symptoms since their immune system might not be as strong as when they were younger. The same applies to patients with HIV/AIDS since their bodies cannot fight against other illnesses easily. In the worst case scenario, patients with other illnesses may die due to listeria infection. This is because their bodies are not able to fight against the bacteria properly. However, with the right medication and lifestyle, they can overcome listeria and lead a healthier life.

The Spread of Listeria

The listeria bacteria can be found in water, soil and animals infected with the bacteria as well as their fecal waste. These create different scenarios whereby the bacteria can finally be spread to a human being. Water is used for extensive purposes such as drinking, cleaning, watering plants and even in the manufacturing of different food products. If the water hygiene is not properly maintained and already has the bacteria, then one way or the other, the contaminated water will be used by a person.

As for soil, a wide variety of foods are grown there and as they germinate and grow, if the soil contains the bacteria, these foods will act as carriers. For example, vegetables and fruits, this can be eaten raw. People eat animal products such as meat and milk. In addition to that, meat and milk can be used in the manufacturing of various by-products. Therefore, if the animal was a carrier of the listeria bacteria, it can spread from the animal through consumption of the various foods and end up in a person's anatomy. Animal waste is used as manure for the growth of foods on soil.

Conclusion

The ways in which listeria infection affects the body depends on the person's current health and how far the bacterium has spread. If the person is healthy and has a strong immune system, then the bacteria will only have a mild reaction to their body. As a matter of fact, treatment may not be required as the bacterium usually clears out on its own. However, if the person suffers from other illnesses that may weaken their immune system, they may experience some severe repercussion due to the bacterial infection. When the listeria has not spread to delicate body areas, there is little effect on the body's health. Otherwise, the patient may experience some grave symptoms, which can lead to other complications even death.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: September 19, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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