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Listeria

International researchers led by the Institute of Medical Microbiology at the Justus Liebig University Giessen (JLU) in Germany have discovered a highly virulent strain of Listeria monocytogenes that may present a new food safety threat. The new strain was identified as the cause of serious diseases in sheep in a remote area of the Chinese province Jiangsu.

“The detection of a completely new form of pathogenic Listeria monocytogenes in China highlights the need for international collaboration,” said Trinad Chakraborty, director of the Institute of Medical Microbiology at JLU and research scientist at the German Center for Infection Research. “Only by combining resources and expertise can we rapidly identify newly emerging threats to food safety from highly virulent strains worldwide.”

After decoding the genome sequence of these bacteria, the scientists were able to determine the genetic basis for their hypervirulence and to identify the factors that enhance the ability of this Listeria strain to cause severe septic diseases. “These isolates are unique in the sense that they combine the virulence characteristics of various highly pathogenic Listeria species that infect animals or humans into a single strain,” explained Chakraborty. “Since listeriosis is a foodborne infection, measures to identify such highly virulent strains are extremely urgent.”

According to the researchers, “our study suggests that hitherto undiscovered variants of Lm [Listeria monocytogenes] in addition to those in the pathogenic lineages I and II probably exist and warrant further research to identify and detect additional lineages of hypervirulent Lm.”

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