Lapis ISSN 2398-2969

Listeria monocytogenes

Contributor(s): Sarah Pellett, Lesa Thompson




  • Family: Listeriaceae.
  • Genus: Listeria.
  • Species: monocytogenes.


  • Listeria: named after Lord Lister, an English surgeon and pioneer of antisepsis.
  • Monocytogenes: monocyte-producing.

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Clinical Effects



  • Found widespread in the environment, eg in soil, silage, stream water or sewage.
  • Found in numerous animal species but most commonly in ruminants; occasionally it is found in swine, horses, dogs, cats and rabbits. Septicemic listeriosis has been reported in wild hares.


  • Entry into the body through gastrointestinal tract.
  • Pathogen grows and proliferates within phagocytes.
  • Lysis of the phagocyte causes spread of the pathogen to surrounding cells.
  • The bacteria can polymerise actin by means of the protein Act A, enhancing their intracellular mobility.
  • L. monocytogenes is facultatively intracellular (in monocytes).


  • Primarily feed-bourne.
  • Mainly via the fecal-oral route.
  • Penetration through damaged mucosal surfaces can occur.
  • D-galactose residues on the surface of L. monocytogenes attach to D-galactose receptors on host cell walls, commonly M cells and Peyer's patches of the host's intestinal mucosa. L. monocytogenes then translocates past the intestinal membrane and into the body.
  • In rabbits, L. monocytogenes has a predilection for the gravid uterus in advanced pregnancy.

Pathological effects

  • Uterine infection.
  • Abortion.
  • Infertility.
  • Liver disease Liver: disease.
  • Sudden death.
  • Rarely, neurological pathology (heat tilt Head tilt (torticollis) linked to meningoencephalitis) is seen in the rabbit.

Other Host Effects

  • Immunity to L. monocytogenes is mainly cell-mediated via TH cells.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Rothenburger J L, Bennett K R, Bryan L et al (2015) Septicemic listeriosis in wild hares from Saskatchewan, Canada. J Wildlife Dis 51 (2), 503-508 PubMed.
  • Zhu L, Stewart D, Reineke K et al (2012) Comparison of swab transport media for recovery of L. monocytogenes from environmental samples. J Food Protection 75 (3), 580-584 PubMed.
  • Murray E G D, Webb R A & Swann M B R (1926) A disease of rabbits characterized by a large mononuclear leukocytosis caused by a hitherto undescribed bacillus Bacterium monocytogenes (n. sp.). J Pathol 29 (4), 407-439 Wiley Online Library.

Other sources of information

  • Pimus Labs - Client Guidelines. Listeria Sampling - Swab Method. Website: Last accessed 18th February 2016.
  • VetBac - Listeria monocytogenes. Website: Last accessed 16th February 2016.