An outbreak of listeriosis in Sweden, consisting of nine cases, was investigated by means of molecular typing of strains from patients and strains isolated from suspected foodstuffs, together with interviews of the patients. Listeria monocytogenes was isolated from six of the patients, and all isolates were of the same clonal type. This clonal type was also isolated from a "gravad" rainbow trout, made by producer Y, found in the refrigerator of one of the patients. Unopened packages obtained from producer Y were also found to contain the same clonal type of L. monocytogenes. Based on the interview results and the bacteriological typing, we suspect that at least six of the nine cases were caused by gravad or cold-smoked rainbow trout made by producer Y. To our knowledge, this is the first rainbow trout-borne outbreak of listeriosis ever reported.
A 70-year-old woman fell seriously ill overnight with meningitis and was admitted to hospital. Cerebrospinal fluid culture yielded Listeria monocytogenes. One of the first problems in solving a human case of listeriosis suspected to be foodborne is to find the foods likely to have been transmitting L. monocytogenes. Two enrichment procedures and a direct plating procedure were used for isolation of the bacteria from different food items collected from the patient's refrigerator, local retail store and producer. Samples of vacuum-packed products of sliced pork brawn, sliced cooked medwurst and berliner wurst of the same brand harboured L. monocytogenes. Serotyping and restriction enzyme analysis (REA) with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) were used to characterize and compare 41 isolates, including the human strain. At least three clones were present in the foods investigated, and one of these was identical to the human clone. This clone was present in samples of medwurst from the patient's refrigerator and the local retail store. This is, to our knowledge, the first proven foodborne case of listeriosis reported in Sweden.
The first lesson learned from this outbreak was that vacuum-packed rainbow trout is not only an excellent medium for the growth of Listeria monocytogenes, but may also cause human listeriosis. Another lesson is that one single fish processing plant may spread multiple clonal types of L. monocytogenes by selling contaminated products to consumers. Thus, when investigating fish-borne outbreaks of listeriosis one should identify and type several isolates of L. monocytogenes from each food and environmental sample, since multiple clonal types might be present. The outbreak described in this paper involved at least eight human cases, three clonal types of L. monocytogenes, and lasted for 11 months. During the outbreak investigation, L. monocytogenes was also isolated from another brand of rainbow trout found in the refrigerator of one of the patients. These latter isolates belonged to a clonal type not associated with the outbreak. However, this clonal type is of considerable interest since it has been associated with foodborne outbreaks of listeriosis in several countries, and is also the second most common clonal type among human clinical isolates of L. monocytogenes in Sweden. Besides the described outbreak, it is likely that vacuum-packed, cold-smoked and gravad rainbow trout have been involved in additional cases of foodborne listeriosis in Sweden.