National Enteric Disease Surveillance; the Listeria Initiative
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Filetype[PDF-617.65 KB]


  • Alternative Title:
    Listeria Initiative
  • Description:
    Listeria monocytogenes is estimated to cause nearly 1,600 illnesses each year in the United States; more than 1,400 related hospitalizations and 250 related deaths occur. Listeria infections (listeriosis) are nationally notifiable. Nearly all cases of listeriosis in persons who are not infants result from eating food contaminated with L. monocytogenes; newborn infants can develop listeriosis if their mother ate contaminated food during pregnancy. The Listeria Initiative is an enhanced surveillance system that collects reports of laboratory-confirmed cases of human listeriosis in the United States. Demographic, clinical, laboratory, and epidemiologic data are collected using a standardized, extended questionnaire. The Listeria Initiative was piloted in the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) in 2004 and implemented nationwide in 2005. Both the number of states participating in and the number of reports sent to the Listeria Initiative have increased since 2004. A main objective of the Listeria Initiative is to aid in the investigation of listeriosis clusters and outbreaks by decreasing the time from outbreak detection to public health intervention. Patient interviews are conducted as cases are reported, rather than after clusters are identified, to minimize the effect of recall bias on food consumption history. In addition, clinical, food, and environmental isolates of L. monocytogenes are subtyped using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE, a type of DNA fingerprinting). PFGE results are submitted to PulseNet, the National Molecular Subtyping Network for Foodborne Disease Surveillance, to identify clusters of possibly related cases. When clusters are identified, Listeria Initiative data are used to rapidly conduct epidemiological analyses. The food consumption histories of patients with cluster-associated illnesses are compared with those of patients with sporadic illnesses to identify foods possibly associated with the cluster. Without the Listeria Initiative database, appropriate comparison data ("controls") for listeriosis investigations would be difficult to obtain through traditional methods; the source population at risk of invasive listeriosis--older adults, immunocompromised persons, and pregnant women--is a small segment of the general population.
  • Content Notes:
    January 2013.

    Available via the World Wide Web as an Acrobat .pdf file (617.65 KB, 2 p.).

    Includes bibliographical references (p. 2).

    CDC. National Listeria Surveillance Overview. Atlanta, Georgia: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, 2011.

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