Public health authorities place a high priority on investigating listeriosis outbreaks, and these epidemiological investigations remain challenging. Some approaches have been described in the literature to address these challenges. This review of listeriosis clusters and outbreaks investigated in the Province of Quebec (Quebec) highlights investigative approaches that contributed to identifying the source of these outbreaks.
The Laboratoire de Santé Publique du Québec (LSPQ) implemented pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) molecular subtyping in 1997 to identify Listeria monocytogenes clusters among isolates from invasive listeriosis cases identified throughout Quebec. A cluster was defined as three cases or more with the same or similar PFGE profiles (=3 band difference) occurring over a 4-month period. An investigation was initiated if the epidemiologic indicators suggested a common source. Listeriosis data from LSPQ's database were reviewed to identify and describe clusters detected from 1997 to 2011, including those that led to an outbreak investigation. Epidemiological reports prepared following each outbreak were also reviewed.
Eleven clusters were identified in the province by LSPQ between 1997 and 2011. Outbreak investigations were initiated for six clusters, four of which involved more than 10 cases. Factors that contributed to identifying the source for three of these outbreaks highlighted the value of (1) making all stakeholders (food safety and inspection services, public health authorities, and laboratories) aware of any ongoing investigation and sharing relevant information even if the source is not yet identified; (2) promptly collecting food samples identified and considered as possible vehicles of infection identified during the interview of a Listeria case; (3) collecting food items and/or environmental samples in locations reported in common by cases in the same cluster.
Multiple approaches should be considered when investigating L. monocytogenes clusters. Networks to facilitate continuous exchange of human and food data between public health and food safety partners should be encouraged.
A total of 84 strains of Listeria monocytogenes were analysed by multilocus enzyme electrophoresis at twelve enzyme loci. Eight enzyme loci were polymorphic with between 2 and 4 alleles per locus. Fourteen electrophoretic types (ETs) were identified. Among 62 human clinical isolates from Denmark, 8 different ETs were defined. Two ETs, designated ET 1 and ET 6, accounted for 77% of the human clinical isolates investigated. These ETs are identical with those responsible for several epidemics in Switzerland and in the United States. Comparison of 58 isolates of L. monocytogenes, typed by MEE, in relation to phage typing showed that phage typing was more discriminatory than MEE. The ability of MEE to distinguish between phage types of Epi-type and other phage types, however, was almost optimal. MEE typed 23 of 24 strains of Epi-type as belonging to ET 1. In contrast ET 1 was not found in 26 strains with phage types other than the Epi-type.
Since 1986, 68% of the Listeria monocytogenes isolates from human cases of invasive listeriosis in Sweden are available for retrospective studies. The aim of the present study was to characterize 601 human invasive isolates of L. monocytogenes in Sweden from 1986 to 2007 by using serotyping and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. Since 1996, serovar 4b was permanently reduced to the second or third most common serovar in human cases in Sweden. During the latter period, 2000-2007, only 13% belonged to serovar 4b and 71% to 1/2a. The dendrogram, based on pulsovars, reveals two clusters with different serovars. Cluster 1 exhibits serovars 4b and 1/2b, whereas cluster 2 consists of serovar 1/2a. Serovar 1/2a seems to be more heterogeneous than serovar 4b.
Human listeriosis outbreaks in Canada have been predominantly caused by serotype 1/2a isolates with highly similar pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns. Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and multi-virulence-locus sequence typing (MVLST) each identified a diverse population of Listeria monocytogenes isolates, and within that, both methods had congruent subtypes that substantiated a predominant clone (clonal complex 8; virulence type 59; proposed epidemic clone 5 [ECV]) that has been causing human illness across Canada for more than 2 decades.
Listeria monocytogenes is responsible for severe and often fatal food-borne infections in humans. A collection of 2,421 L. monocytogenes isolates originating from Ontario's food chain between 1993 and 2010, along with Ontario clinical isolates collected from 2004 to 2010, was characterized using an improved multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis (MLVA). The MLVA method was established based on eight primer pairs targeting seven variable-number tandem-repeat (VNTR) loci in two 4-plex fluorescent PCRs. Diversity indices and amplification rates of the individual VNTR loci ranged from 0.38 to 0.92 and from 0.64 to 0.99, respectively. MLVA types and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns were compared using Comparative Partitions analysis involving 336 clinical and 99 food and environmental isolates. The analysis yielded Simpson's diversity index values of 0.998 and 0.992 for MLVA and PFGE, respectively, and adjusted Wallace coefficients of 0.318 when MLVA was used as a primary subtyping method and 0.088 when PFGE was a primary typing method. Statistical data analysis using BioNumerics allowed for identification of at least 8 predominant and persistent L. monocytogenes MLVA types in Ontario's food chain. The MLVA method correctly clustered epidemiologically related outbreak strains and separated unrelated strains in a subset analysis. An MLVA database was established for the 2,421 L. monocytogenes isolates, which allows for comparison of data among historical and new isolates of different sources. The subtyping method coupled with the MLVA database will help in effective monitoring/prevention approaches to identify environmental contamination by pathogenic strains of L. monocytogenes and investigation of outbreaks.
Cites: Int J Food Microbiol. 2008 Jun 10;124(3):239-4918457891
Cites: Int J Food Microbiol. 1999 Aug 1;49(1-2):95-10210477075
Canadian cases and outbreaks of illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes between 1995 and 2004 were assessed. Isolates (722 total) were characterized by serotyping, and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) was performed to provide a means of detecting case clusters. Rates of listeriosis remained fairly consistent during the period of study, and patient characteristics were similar to those seen in studies of other populations. Most isolates were obtained from blood and cerebrospinal fluid, although during some outbreak investigations isolates were also obtained from stools. Serotype 1/2a predominated in isolates from patients in Canada, followed by serotypes 4b and 1/2b. Outbreaks caused by L. monocytogenes that occurred during the period of study were caused by isolates with serotypes 1/2a and 4b. A retrospective analysis of PFGE data uncovered several clusters that might have represented undetected outbreaks, suggesting that comprehensive prospective PFGE analysis coupled with prompt epidemiological investigations might lead to improved outbreak detection and control.
We analysed the surveillance data from listeriosis cases notified to the Finnish National Infectious Diseases Register between 1995 and 2004 and describe our recent experience in investigating clusters of listeriosis cases. The number of annual cases varied between 18 and 53 but no trends in incidence were identified (average annual incidence was 7 cases per million inhabitants). Only a few cases affected pregnant women or newborns. Most of the patients were elderly people with non-malignant underlying illnesses; 25% of them died from their infections. By routine sero- and genotyping of the listeria isolates, we detected several clusters; the vehicle for infection was only identified for two outbreaks. At least one quarter of listeriosis cases (78/315) was caused by a certain sero-genotype or closely related genotypes, which have also been found from vacuum-packed cold-smoked or cold-salted fish products. During 2000-2003, Finnish consumers were repeatedly informed about food precautions for risk groups. The information was also given to attending physicians and prenatal clinics.