Listeria monocytogenes strains that were isolated from 314 human listeriosis cases in Finland during an 11-year period were analyzed by O:H serotyping and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Serotyping divided the isolates into five serotypes, the most common being 1/2a (53%) and 4b (27%). During the study period, the number of cases caused by serotype 1/2a increased from 22% in 1990 to 67% in 2001, and those caused by serotype 4b decreased from 61 to 27%, respectively. PFGE with restriction enzyme AscI divided the strains into 81 PFGE genotypes; among strains of serotypes 1/2a and 4b, 49 and 18 PFGE types were seen, respectively. PFGE type 1 (serotype 1/2a) was the most prevalent single type (37 strains). Together with six other, closely related PFGE types, PFGE type 1 formed a group of 71 strains, representing 23% of all 314 strains. Strains of PFGE type 1 have also been isolated from cold smoked fish, suggesting a source of human infections caused by this type. Moreover, PFGE type 24 (serotype 1/2c) was significantly associated with gender: 5% of 180 male subjects but none of 132 female subjects (P = 0.012). An electronic database library was created from the PFGE profiles to make possible the prompt detection of new emerging profiles and the tracing of potential infection clusters in the future.
The molecular epidemiology of Listeria monocytogenes was investigated in a longitudinal study of three Finnish dairy farms during 2013 to 2016. A total of 186 bulk tank milk (BTM), 224 milk filter sock (MFS), and 1,702 barn environment samples were analyzed, and isolates of L. monocytogenes were genotyped using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. L. monocytogenes occurred throughout the year in all sample types, and the prevalence in MFS increased significantly during the indoor season. L. monocytogenes was more prevalent in MFS (29%) than in BTM (13%) samples. However, the prevalence of L. monocytogenes varied more between farms in samples of MFS (13 to 48%) than in BTM (10 to 16%). For each farm, the L. monocytogenes genotypes detected were classified by persistence (defined as persistent if isolated from =3 samples during =6 months) and predominance (defined as predominant if >5% prevalence on at least one farm visit). The prevalence of sporadic genotypes was 4 to 5% on all three farms. In contrast, the prevalence of persistent predominant genotypes varied between farms by 4% to 16%. The highest prevalence of persistent predominant genotypes was observed on the farm with the poorest production hygiene. Persistent predominant genotypes were most prevalent on feeding surfaces, water troughs, and floors. Genotypes isolated from the milking system or from cow udders had a greater relative risk of occurring in BTM and MFS than genotypes that only occurred elsewhere in the farm, supporting the hypothesis that L. monocytogenes is transmitted to milk from contamination on the udder surface or in the milking equipment.IMPORTANCEListeria monocytogenes is a ubiquitous environmental bacterium and the causative agent of a serious foodborne illness, listeriosis. Dairy products are common vehicles of listeriosis, and dairy cattle farms harbor L. monocytogenes genotypes associated with human listeriosis outbreaks. Indeed, dairy cattle farms act as a reservoir of L. monocytogenes, and the organism is frequently detected in bulk tank milk (BTM) and in the feces of clinically healthy cows. The ecology of L. monocytogenes in the farm environment is complex and poorly understood. Isolates of the same L. monocytogenes genotype can occur in the farm for years, but the factors contributing to the persistence of genotypes on dairy farms are unknown. Knowledge of the persistence patterns and contamination routes of L. monocytogenes on dairy farms can improve management of the contamination pressure in the farm environment and aid in the development of focused control strategies to reduce BTM contamination.