Listeriosis: symptoms, what to do?

Six cheeses sold in supermarkets since mid-March are subject to a recall due to contamination by the bacterium Listeria. We take stock of the symptoms and treatments and the risks during pregnancy with Christophe Bastid, gastroenterologist.


After children’s chocolates and Buitoni pizzas, a new one national recall for six cheeses by a Graindorge brand cheese dairy (Lactalis Group) and distributed by major retailers was launched on Tuesday 5th April. These cheeses could contain the bacterium responsible for listeriosis, government website Rappel Conso informs.

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This campaign, the scope of which was initially unknown, concerns a Brie, two Coulommiers and two Normanville – five raw milk cheeses – made at Fromagerie de Livarot, which belongs to Graindorge. The recalled cheeses may contain Listeria monocytogenes, which causes listeriosis.

Food is regularly recalled because of suspected infection with the bacterium Listeria.

Note. In France, listeriosis remains a rare disease, with only 5 to 6 cases per million inhabitants per year. In 2015, nearly 350 cases of listeriosis were recorded in mainland France.

Symptoms: what are the signs of listeriosis?

In a healthy person with a bacterial infection Listeria monocytogenes usually goes unnoticed because the pathogen is quickly destroyed by the immune system: no symptoms appear.

On the other hand, in an elderly and/or immunocompromised person (i.e. suffering from a chronic disease such as diabetes, cirrhosis or obesity, or suffering from cancer or is on immunosuppressive treatment) the bacterium multiplies in the bloodstream and we can observe this :

  • Shortness of breath: irregular and noisy breathing, accelerated heartbeat, severe headache, bluish lips and extremities (fingers, toes), malaise…
  • Neurological symptoms reflecting meningoencephalitis: behavioral disorders, photophobia (significant discomfort in the presence of light), stiff neck…
  • Septic shock: confusion, agitation, high fever (over 38°C), rash…

Incubation: What is the incubation period for Listeria?

The incubation period of the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes (ie: the time between infection and the appearance of the first symptoms of the disease) is very variable: it generally ranges from a few days to two months (7-8 weeks).

It should be noted that in the most severe cases (sepsis and neurological forms), the first symptoms of listeriosis can appear very quickly, within a few days.

Pregnancy: What are the risks of listeriosis in pregnant women?

During pregnancy, bacterial infection Listeria monocytogenes can have serious consequences for the health and development of the unborn child. “The bacterium crosses the placenta and can be responsible for death in utero or spontaneous abortion (miscarriage)” says dr. basti.

Although the disease generally has no consequences for the mother, the infant may be born prematurely and present with a severe infection at birth that combines sepsis, pulmonary infection, neurological neurological involvement, and/or skin involvement.

Doctor’s Advice: In a pregnant woman, an unexplained fever (above 38°C) must be the subject of a medical consultation, as it is a sign that may indicate listeriosisrecommends Dr. bastid.

Diagnosis: how is listeriosis diagnosed?

The diagnosis of listeriosis consists of a blood test (serology) and a blood culture: “The blood is “cultured” in the laboratory to demonstrate the presence of the bacteria developed by the gastroenterologist. The condition can also be confirmed after microbiological examination of placenta, CSF, ascites, joint puncture, or perinatal specimens.

Note. In France, listeriosis has been a notifiable disease since 1998: this means that the doctor or medical analysis laboratory must inform the health authorities (Regional Health Agency) when they detect a case of listeriosis.

Treatment: how is listeriosis treated?

Good news: Listeriosis is not an antibiotic-resistant bacterium. Treatment of the disease is based on the administration of antibiotics (ampicillin and / or gentamicin) explains the gastroenterologist.

Not surprisingly, treating infections with Listeria monocytogenes is all the more effective when given early – even in pregnant women, to limit the effects on the fetus.

Food: What foods should you avoid during pregnancy?

The best treatment for listeriosis is prevention. Frail people (elderly or immunocompromised) and pregnant women should therefore avoid raw food – Be careful, the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes can be present in plant foods as well as animal foods“This is the list of foods to avoid,” said Dr. bastid.

  • delicacies in jelly,
  • rillettes and pies,
  • Foie gras,
  • Raw milk cheeses: Pont l’Évêque, Maroilles, Camembert…
  • Soft cheeses: Brie, Coulommiers, Munster…
  • Smoked fish: salmon, trout…
  • Raw fish: sushi, sashimi…
  • surimi,
  • read scan,
  • Raw meat: Tartars, cured ham…
  • Raw shellfish: oysters…
  • Raw germinated seeds.

Attention ! “The bacterium Listeria monocytogenes does not change the taste of food, so it is not possible to distinguish a contaminated food from an uncontaminated food by taste or smell.” notices dr. basti.

Note. The bacterium Listeria monocytogenes destroyed after 30 minutes of cooking at 60°C.

Prevention: how to protect yourself and avoid listeriosis?

To prevent listeriosis, some good reflexes (inspired by common sense!) are essential, especially in the kitchen:

  • Wash fruits and vegetables well before eating
  • Clean your fridge regularly with soapy water, ideally once a month,
  • Regularly check the temperature of the refrigerator: “it must be around 4°C to limit the growth of bacteria, including Listeria monocytogenes” recommends Dr. bastide,
  • Observe the use-by dates (DLC) / use-by dates of food,
  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly clean kitchen utensils – knives…

Swell :

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Prevention: how to protect yourself and avoid listeriosis?

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