Arun Bhunia, a microbiologist in Purdue Universitys Department of Food Science, says a variety of factors enable Listeria monocytogenes to cause infection. Information from a comprehensive study on how Listeria makes people sick may lead to vaccines to prevent food poisoning. (Purdue Agricultural Communications photo/Tom Campbell)
Whether food-borne bacteria make people sick depends on a variety of factors, and better understanding of the infection process could lead to ways to stop such illnesses from occurring, according to Purdue University scientists.
In the first comprehensive study of the virulence of Listeria monocytogenes, researchers report that how well the bacteria attach to cells does not alone determine the degree of illness. The factors that determine if a person becomes ill and the degree of illness include the levels at which the pathogen attaches to intestinal cells, penetrates cell walls and then moves into other organs, said authors Arun Bhunia and Ziad Jaradat, both of the Department of Food Science. The paper is published in the June issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
Listeria is one of the deadliest food-borne bacteria, with a fatality rate of 20 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It sickens about 2,500 people annually in the United States.
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