Listeriosis and pregnancy

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Listeriosis and pregnancy

Infection with Listeria, also called listeriosis, is a serious food infection that takes its name from the bacterium that is the reason, the Listeria monocytogenes. This bacterium is typically found in the land and in the water and can therefore easily contaminate vegetables and greens. Many animals can also become infected with the bacterium without having obvious symptoms.

La listeriosi it is usually a mild disease for the pregnant women, but causes serious pathologies in the fetus or newborn. Some people with Listeria infections, typically adults aged 65 and over and people with weakened immune systems, develop severe bloodstream infections (causing sepsis) or brain (causing meningitis or encephalitis). Listeria infections can sometimes affect other parts of the body, including bones, joints, chest, and abdomen.

Here are the symptoms, treatments, and prevention of listeriosis in pregnancy.


Pregnancy: foods allowed and prohibited in the nine months

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During pregnancy, the expectant mother should take the opportunity to change her lifestyle and diet. What are the prohibited foods in the nine months? Raw milk, eggs, meat and fish. Fruit and ...

In this article

  • What is Listeria? 
  • What are the symptoms of listeriosis?
  • What happens if listeriosis affects a pregnant woman?
  • What happens if listeriosis affects the fetus or newborn?
  • What should i do if i think i have listeriosis?
  • How is listeriosis treated?
  • How can I do to prevent listeriosis?
  • What other food safety guidelines should I follow?
Read also: Listeria and listeriosis: what it is, how to prevent the risks

1. What is listeria?

La Listeria it is a type of bacterium that is found in soil, water and some animals, including cattle and poultry.
Listeria can also be found in a wide variety of raw foods, such as undercooked meats and raw vegetables, dairy products made with unpasteurized milk. Like most bacteria, it is canceled out by the pasteurization and cooking processes. There listeriosi is one of the more serious types of food poisoning.

2. What are the symptoms of listeriosis?

Listeriosis can cause mild symptoms, flu-like like

  • temperature,
  • chills,
  • muscle aches,
  • Diarrhea
  • or stomach pain.

You may also have

  • stiff neck,
  • headache,
  • confusion
  • or loss of balance.

Symptoms can appear up to 2 months after eating something containing listeria. Many pregnant women do not have any symptoms, but they can still pass the infection to the fetus.

3. What happens if listeriosis affects a pregnant woman?

Pregnant women have one 10 times more likely to get listeriosis compared to the general population. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause the body to lose too much water and cause dehydration. Listeria can also cause miscarriage or preterm birth.

4. What happens if listeriosis affects the fetus or newborn?

Babies born with listeriosis can have severe blood or brain infections. Listeriosis can cause your baby's lifelong health problems, including

  • intellectual disability,
  • paralysis,
  • convulsions,
  • blindness
  • or brain problems, kidney or heart.

Listeriosis can also cause death in infants.

Read also: Listeriosis in pregnancy

5. What should I do if I think I have listeriosis?

If you think you have eaten food contaminated with listeria or if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above, contact your gynecologist or primary care physician right away. Remember that it can take 2 months for symptoms to appear.

6. How is listeriosis treated?

Your gynecologist can undergo a blood test to check if you have listeriosis. You may need to hire antibiotics to treat infection and prevent fetal infection.

7. How can I go about preventing listeriosis?

To help prevent listeriosis, avoid eating the following foods during pregnancy:

  • Unpasteurized milk and unpasteurized milk based foods, including soft cheeses
  • Paté and meat tartare
  • Frutti di mare 
  • Unwashed raw products such as fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid raw and / or undercooked eggs, meat, fish, and poultry during pregnancy. 

8. What other food safety guidelines should I follow?

Follow these steps for the food safety:

Cleaning and hygiene

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw foods and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or touching an animal.
  • Rinse all products thoroughly under running water before eating or cooking them.
  • Do not rinse raw meat or poultry before cooking. This can spread bacteria to other kitchen surfaces.
  • Keep the kitchen clean: wash utensils and cutting boards with soap and hot water after using them.

Separate the foods

  • Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs, seafood and their fruit juices away from other foods.
  • Use a separate cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Do not place cooked food on a plate that also contains raw foods, unless the plate has been washed.
  • Do not put cooked foods in the same sauce used to marinate raw foods, unless the sauce is boiled first.

When cooking ...

  • Use a food thermometer to verify that meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs are at a suitable temperature.
  • Place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food, away from bones or fat.
  • Cover, mix and swirl the foods in the microwave to cook evenly. Wait the necessary time before using the food thermometer.

Fridge and freezer

  • Keep the refrigerator at 4 ° C and the freezer at -17 ° C 
  • Thaw food in the refrigerator, microwave or cold water. Cook food immediately after defrosting in a microwave or cold water.
  • Meat and poultry thawed in the refrigerator can be frozen before or after cooking. If thawed in a microwave or cold water, cook before refreezing.
  • Do not leave perishable food at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • Buy only fresh eggs. Store eggs in the refrigerator in their original packaging and use within 3-5 weeks.
  • Buy only pre-cut products that are fresh or kept on ice. 

References for this article:

ACOG The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)CDC 

Listeriosis in the country and in Europe

Outbreak of listeriosis in the Marche region


Between May 2022 and January 2022, it was highlighted, through the surveillance system of infectious diseases, an increase in cases of human listeriosis in the provinces of Pesaro and Urbino, Ancona and Macerata. In particular, 13 cases (mean age 72 years) of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported. Of the 13 cases, 7 were male, and 12 had debilitating pathologies or risk conditions (such as drug immunosuppression, pregnancy status) at the time of infection and two patients died.


Listeriosis in Europe: outbreak from frozen plant foods


From the 2022 15 2022 June in 5 EU Member States they have been reported 47 cases of listeriosis, of which 9 with fatal outcome, caused by a new strain of Listeria monocytogenes, particularly invasive.

Read also: Pregnancy, 18 foods to avoid or limit in the nine months of waiting

Questions and answers

What are the symptoms of listeriosis?

In most cases, listeriosis causes symptoms such as: fever, diarrhea, joint pain, chills, back pain in the lumbar area, which arise within a few days of ingesting contaminated food.

What foods can contain the bacterium listeria?  

In general, here are the foods to watch out for: raw milk and soft cheeses made with raw milk; raw or lightly cooked meats and products prepared with raw meats including paté and tartare; sausages and cured meats; unwashed raw vegetables and fruit; smoked fish and meats.

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