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    Thursday, 5 January 2017

    Listeria Cases on the Rise in Europe

    Listeria monocytogenes growing on an agar plate      - Img source: Nathan Reading
    According to a new report, the number of illnesses linked to listeria poisoning each year has been rising in Europe since 2008. Nonetheless, those compiling the report were quick to point out that between 2014 and 2015 the number of cases had ‘stabilised.’

    The findings were made by a joint investigation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). They claim that ‘There has been a statistically significant increasing trend of listeriosis…with the proportion of cases in the over 64 age group steadily increasing from 56.2% in 2008 to 64.1% in 2015.’

    Whilst that represents a 14.1% increase for those aged over 64, it is also significant that the number of reported cases amongst patients aged over 84 has almost doubled in the same space of time; suggesting elderly people are particularly susceptible to contracting the pathogenic disease.

    In 2015, the 32 participating European countries reported 2,206 confirmed cases of listeriosis; 18% of which ended in fatalities. For comparison, salmonellosis, the second most reported foodborne illness in the EU, rose from 92,007 to 94,625 between 2014 and 2015; whilst campylobacteriosis, an illness caused by a similar pathogen which is also spread via food, caused about 229,213 illnesses in 2015 – meaning the latter remains the EU’s most commonly reported foodborne illness.

    Mike Catchpole, Chief Scientist at ECDC, stated: ‘It is concerning that there continues to be an increasing trend of Listeria cases which mostly occur in the elderly population. ECDC is working together with Member States to enhance surveillance for food- and waterborne diseases, starting with Listeria, as earlier detection of relevant clusters and outbreaks can help prevent further cases…This is a public health threat that can and needs to be addressed.’

    Meanwhile, Dr Marta Hugas, Head of Biological Hazards and Contaminants at EFSA, said: ‘Listeria seldom exceeded the legal safety limits in ready-to-eat foods, the most common foodborne source of human infections. However, it is important that consumers follow manufacturers’ storage instructions and the guidelines given by national authorities on the consumption of foods.’

    However, although the report also found there to have been 4,362 foodborne outbreaks in 2015, outbreaks of salmonella had fallen by 41% since 2010.

    Experts advised that ‘After consumption of contaminated foods, most healthy individuals do not develop any notable symptoms. However, in people with a weakened immune system, pregnant women, new-borns and the elderly listeriosis may lead to meningitis, brain infection, and severe bloodstream infection. All clinical presentations are treatable with prolonged courses of antibiotics, but the prognosis of the most serious invasive infections is poor.’ 

    James Stannard

    James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London.
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