Listeriosis: Symptoms and Treatment

Listeriosis is a disease of an infectious nature caused by a pathogenic species of listeria L. Monocytogenes. This microorganism is very stable, and can survive even in adverse environmental conditions, so anyone can be infected by it, not adequately responsive to the issue of its hygiene.

The main habitat for listeria is the soil from which they enter the plants, and then into the organism of various animals that eat them — agricultural and domestic (cats, dogs). Human infection occurs when poorly purified foods, including livestock products, are used, but infection can also occur in another way — when a person contacts the carriers of an infectious agent.


Listeria parasitizes inside of wild and domestic animals, standing out in the environment with urine, feces, saliva. Microorganisms can be found in milk, eggs and other products of vital activity. The sources of the pathogen for humans most often become infected with this microorganism are animals, including: fish (river and sea), pigs (domestic and wild), dogs and cats, birds and other representatives of zoomir. A patient with such a pathology as listeriosis, a person can also be contagious to others. Therefore, the treatment of the disease involves isolating the patient before the symptoms disappear.

The ways of infection with human listeria can be as follows:

  • Transplacental
  • contact and household
  • fecal-oral
  • Airborne droplets

The most common is contact-household and fecal-oral routes of infection, due to the ingress of the pathogen into the human body with food products, including:

  1. milk
  2. eggs
  3. meat or fish that have not been properly cooked;
  4. soft cheeses
  5. Ice cream
  6. fruits and vegetables (not enough washed)

Listeria can also enter the body together with water, especially if it is water from natural or artificial reservoirs that does not undergo proper sanitation treatment. Airborne droplets infect people when they work with animal fur or bird flu. Also infected are workers of agricultural farms, poultry farms, pet stores, veterinary clinics and other institutions dealing with animals.

In those cases, if a woman develops listeriosis during pregnancy, there is a transplacental infection of the baby in her womb. The causative agent is transmitted from the mother to the baby through the placenta, causing severe symptoms and developmental disorders. Very often listeriosis in pregnancy ends with miscarriage or stillbirth. In addition, the probability is high that a child born with congenital pathology will die within a few days or weeks of life. And even with listeriosis in pregnant women, the risk of fetal development abnormalities, both physical and mental, is high.

Typically, a woman suffering from this disease during pregnancy complains of general symptoms such as weakness, fever, sore throat, muscle pain, but no symptoms of the disease. Therefore, the diagnosis of listeriosis during pregnancy plays a priority, because if treatment is not prescribed, the condition of a woman can be critically worsened, which will entail not only the death of the child, but also the death of the mother. Usually, in a situation with listeriosis, pregnant women show premature interruption or abortion, but if the infection occurred on a long term, premature birth is prescribed.


Symptoms of listeriosis depend on what form of the disease a person has. The disease can be 4 forms, some of which are more common, and others are less common. So, one of the rarest forms is the eye-glandular. Its symptoms are similar to conjunctivitis, with the only difference that in addition to lesions of the mucous eyes, there is also a lesion of the near-lymph nodes, hyperthermia and chills.

The general condition of a person is violated, noted:

  • weakness;
  • fatigue;
  • pain in the muscles and joints.

Typical symptoms of this form are associated with eye damage:

  1. redness and edema of the eyelids;
  2. the appearance of a purulent discharge
  3. vision impairment
  4. narrowing of the eye gap.

On the mucosa are visible small nodules, somewhat resembling wheat grains.

More common is the anginal-septic form of the disease in a person whose symptoms resemble angina, but are more pronounced.

The main symptoms of this form are:

  • swelling and reddening of the pharynx
  • hyperthermia (up to 38 degrees or higher);
  • the appearance of pain when swallowing
  • the formation of ulcerative plaques and gray films on the tonsils

Simultaneously with these symptoms, there are symptoms of severe intoxication, such as chills, an increase in the cervical lymph nodes, high fever, muscle pain, weakness, headache. The course of this form of the disease in a person is difficult. If treatment is not performed in a timely manner, there is a risk of complications, including sepsis, which threatens death to patients.

One of the most common forms of listeriosis is septic-granulomatous. Mostly, such listeriosis develops in children of the first days or weeks of life. In general, this form of pathology accounts for up to 50% of all listeriosis diseases, since people with low immunity suffer from it, among them mainly newborn children, as well as elderly people. The disease can also develop in children and adults with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

Septic-granulomatous form has the following symptoms:

  1. pronounced respiratory failure in a child
  2. damage to the cardiovascular system
  3. rapid development of CNS and sepsis symptoms

This form in 80% of cases ends lethal.

If listeriosis appears in a nursing baby, then it begins as a viral infection, and then the symptoms grow rapidly, bringing the child to an extremely difficult state. If the treatment of this form is scheduled in time, the probability of recovery is high. However, the disease leaves after itself consequences — the child may be lagging behind in mental development.

Another form of the disease is the nervous or meningoencephalitic. As the name implies, the symptoms of this pathology are associated with lesions of the meninges. And the symptoms will depend on what area of ​​the brain is affected. It can be:

  • cramps;
  • Stress and soreness of the neck muscles
  • epileptic seizures
  • severe headache and hyperthermia.

Also, a child or adult with this form of the disease often has ptosis of the eyelids and anisocoria of the pupils. There is a fear of light, they can develop paresis and paralysis of the limbs.

Listeriosis in pregnant women always has an unfavorable course — mostly this pregnancy ends with the birth of a dead baby. But even if the child survives in the womb, there is a high probability that he will have severe morphological or mental disorders. Therefore, during pregnancy, it is extremely important for women to pay close attention to their health, taking all measures to prevent infection with these microorganisms.

Note that in addition to the above symptoms in the various forms of listeriosis may appear and symptoms of disruption of the work of various organs and systems. These are:

  1. vomiting and nausea;
  2. diarrhea;
  3. enlargement of the liver and spleen
  4. paroxysmal abdominal pain
  5. rash in the area of ​​large joints (coarse-grained or erythematous)
  6. a characteristic rash on the face in the form of a butterfly;
  7. the appearance of pus in the cerebrospinal fluid

The acute and chronic form is noted in medical practice. All of the above symptoms were related to the acute course of the disease, while the chronic course has a blurred clinical picture.


To diagnose, you need to question a person in order to identify the causes of the disease, as well as to listen to his complaints. Diagnosis of listeriosis is based on immunological studies that can identify the DNA of the pathogen in the patient’s blood. In serological examination, the patient takes an analysis for listeriosis, in which a pathogen is found in the blood. At bacteriological research consider or examine under a microscope separated from a pharynx or eyes.

In general, the diagnosis is not difficult, but it is important that it is carried out in a timely manner and the treatment is prescribed, since any delay can cost the patient life. If the disease is diagnosed on time, its causes and form are established, then treatment will in most cases have favorable progress. And only with septico-granulomatous form is the risk of development in children who have suffered a pathology, the consequences in the form of persistent mental disorders.


Treatment of the disease should be comprehensive, and the doctor should consider the causes of the disease and its symptoms when developing a therapy plan. Mandatory is the hospitalization of a person in a hospital, because he is the carrier of the infection and the source of it for others. Predominantly the treatment is carried out with antibacterial drugs, which are prescribed taking into account the susceptibility of the microorganism. But rehydration therapy is also required for dehydration, and vitamin therapy.

In case of eye damage, glucocorticoids and an albucid solution are used. In general, the treatment should last a week after the symptoms disappear.

Unfortunately, the treatment of newborns with this disease has unfavorable predictions — the risk of child death is very high, but adults with this disease mostly recover if treatment was done in a timely manner.

Specific prevention of listeriosis does not exist, therefore, people who want to protect themselves from this ailment should carefully consider the food and water they consume. It is important to treat meat, poultry and other products well, thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables, drink only boiled milk, etc.