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Research Project into Sources of Listeria Launched

20 August 2013

UK - The British Food Standards Agency is to launch research to help identify the key sources of listeria.

The research is designed to help with the FSA’s Listeria Risk Management Programme to reduce the risk of listeria to humans.

The FSA said that reducing the risk of listeriosis to humans is a strategic priority for the FSA.

In the UK there are currently about 180 cases of listeriosis reported each year.

Listeriosis is most commonly reported in pregnant women, newborns and people with underlying medical conditions, particularly those more than 60 years of age, with food being the main transmission route.

However, listeria is distributed widely in the environment and can be found in soil, decaying vegetation and fodder. It is also found in ruminants.

The aim of this project is to examine whether the source of listeriosis in the UK can be attributed, based on genome sequencing.

The proposed work will sequence the genomes of clinical isolates of confirmed Listeria monocytogenes collected in the UK with possible source isolates from a wide range of foodstuffs (meat, fish, dairy, fresh produce etc.), animals, and the environment – including food factories.

It is expected that strategies will be developed to compare the diversity of the listeriosis clinical cases with those from foodstuffs and to pinpoint common lineages between the food and clinical strains as a basis for apportioning source attribution of infections.

The information will assist the Listeria Risk Management Programme in prioritising resources towards addressing the key source of listeriosis.

The agency is now calling for tenders to take up the research project and it has said that collaborative applications are encouraged to promote well-balanced, innovative proposals that offer value for money and make use of the best available research and analytical approaches.

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