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Listeriosis – causes, side effects and treatments at

Thursday, May 03, 2018 by

Listeriosis is an infectious disease caused by Listeria bacteria.

Listeria is named after Joseph Lister, a surgeon who’s also the pioneer of antiseptic surgery. While there are 10 distinct species of Listeria, the variant that usually affects humans is called Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes).

Listeria causes at least 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths in the U.S. annually and the disease surpasses both the fatality rates of Salmonella and Clostridium botulinum. This rate of infection has remained relatively stable over the past few years.

Listeriosis often spreads when individuals consume contaminated food and about 20 to 30 percent of cases are fatal.

Known symptoms and risk factors for listeriosis

The most common side effects of listeriosis may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea

While most patients with listeriosis often experience very mild symptoms, this makes it hard to detect the disease. The symptoms of an infection often start at least one to three days after contaminated food is consumed.

The mildest symptom is a flu-like illness that is accompanied by diarrhea and fever. In some cases, individuals don’t experience the first symptoms until several days or weeks after exposure. The symptoms of listeriosis usually last until the infection is gone.

Sometimes, the disease may spread outside the intestines and cause a more advanced infection called invasive listeriosis. 

Invasive listeriosis causes more severe symptoms that may include:

  • Changes in alertness
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Headache
  • Loss of balance/difficulty walking
  • Stiff neck

Risk factors for listeriosis may include:

  • Being older than 65
  • Being pregnant
  • Having AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
  • Having an existing kidney disease
  • Having cirrhosis
  • Having diabetes
  • Surgical removal of the spleen
  • Taking anti-rheumatoid arthritis medication and immunosuppressant drugs
  • Undergoing chemotherapy

Body systems harmed by listeriosis

Listeriosis may cause the following complications:

  • Brain abscesses
  • Death
  • Meningitis and/or encephalitis
  • Miscarriage
  • Neonatal sepsis (could be fatal)
  • Premature birth
  • Seizures
  • Septicemia/bacteremia (blood infection)
  • Stillbirth

Food items or nutrients that may prevent listeriosis

The following foods or nutrients can help prevent listeriosis:

  1. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) – ACV has an alkaline effect because of to the way it is metabolized in the body. ACV can ease different food poisoning symptoms. Additionally, ACV can ease pain in the gastrointestinal lining and kill bacteria for immediate relief.
  2. Basil leaves – Basil can help ease the stomach pain caused by food poisoning. The herb also has antimicrobial properties that can help fight microorganisms.
  3. Cumin – Cumin seeds can help soothe abdominal discomfort and stomach inflammation caused by food poisoning.
  4. Fenugreek seeds and yogurt – Yogurt has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that can help fight the bacteria that cause food poisoning. Meanwhile, fenugreek seeds can help treat abdominal discomfort.
  5. Garlic – Garlic is a potent antiviral, making it an effective natural remedy for food poisoning. It also has strong antibacterial and antifungal properties. Additionally, garlic can relieve symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal pain.
  6. Ginger – Ginger has potent therapeutic and preventive properties. It can even help boost the absorption and assimilation of essential nutrients. Since ginger can also aid in digestion, it’s an effective remedy for nausea and vomiting by giving instant relief.
  7. Honey – Because of its antifungal and antibacterial properties, honey can help treat indigestion and other symptoms of food poisoning. Honey can soothe an upset stomach and it controls the formation of excess acid in the stomach.
  8. Lemon – Lemon has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties that can offer relief to food poisoning patients. Since lemons are acidic, they can also help eliminate the bacteria that spread food poisoning.

Treatments, management plans for listeriosis

Treatment for minor infections doesn’t usually require medication. However, severe cases of listeriosis are usually treated with antibiotics. Ampicillin can be used on its own or together with a different antibiotic such as gentamicin.

If listeriosis involves meningitis or septicemia, the patient may require intravenous antibiotics. They may also need at least six weeks of care and treatment.

Where to learn more


Listeriosis is an infectious disease caused by Listeria bacteria, and often spreads when individuals consume contaminated food.

The most common side effects of listeriosis may include diarrhea, fever, muscle aches, and nausea.


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