Friday 2 March 2018

Three dead in Australian Listeria outbreak.

Three people are known to have died and another twelve have fallen ill in a Listeria outbreak in Australia. All of the fatalities have occurred in New South Wales, with cases reported in Victoria and Tasmania. The outbreak has been linked to Rockmelons (Cantaloupes), Cucumis melo, from a farm in Nericon, New South Wales, with all but two of the effected persons known to have consumed  Melons before falling ill. Retailers in Australia have removed Rockemelons from sale as a precaution and people are being advised to destroy any saved Melons rather than eating them, particularly  if they belong to vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women, elderly people or those with compromised immune systems.

Rockmelons (Cantaloupes), Cucumis melo. Scott Bauer/United States Department of Agriculture.

Listeria monocytogenes is a facultative anaerobic Bacterium (Bacterium that does not need oxygen to survive, but which is not poisoned by it either) that is one of the most common causes of food-poisoning in Humans, causing an estimated 1600 infections and 260 fatalities in the US each year. It is a form of Firmicutes, tough cell-walled Bacteria that produce endospores capable of surviving desiccation and other extreme conditions, making the Bacteria very hard to eradicate.
 Electron micrograph of a flagellated Listeria monocytogenes Bacterium, Magnified 41 250 times. Elizabeth White/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Wikipedia.
Listeria monocytogenes is particularly associated with unpasteurised dairy products (such as raw milk cheeses), as it is primarily an infection of Ruminant Mammals. It can cause meningitis-type infections in Humans, and is particularly dangerous to the very old, very young and those with compromised immune systems. However it can also thrive in Human gastrointestinal tracts without harming the host (it is estimated that about 10% of people are infected) raising the possibility of direst Human-to-Human transmission.
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