Listeria monocytogenes in multiple habitats and host populations: review of available data for mathematical modeling.


Listeria monocytogenes has the ability to survive and multiply in diverse habitats and to cause infection in a variety of animal species and humans. We evaluated the literature on survival and multiplication within and transmission among multiple host populations and habitats, including man, sewage, general environment (soil, water, and vegetation), silage (fermented plant material), animals (including wild and domestic animals), and food processing plants. The available knowledge on L. monocytogenes transmission dynamics was translated into the key process nodes of interrelated host- and habitat-specific mathematical models, providing a starting framework for future modeling work and the ultimate development of a system-wide model for evaluation of its transmission, and strategies to reduce human exposure. Because of the ability of L. monocytogenes to survive and multiply in many habitats and hosts, and the number of possible transmission routes, it is highly unlikely that it could be eradicated from any habitat or host, including man. However, L. monocytogenes load within and transmission among habitats and host populations could probably be reduced. Based on the published information, we hypothesize that three recent anthropogenic practices increase the load within and transmission among reviewed habitats and host populations: extended refrigerated storage of ready-to-eat foods allowing L. monocytogenes growth in foods that are contaminated during production or subsequent handling; feeding domestic ruminants with silage often contaminated with L. monocytogenes; and dispersal of contaminated products of sewage treatment to agricultural fields and waters. Future mathematical modeling work could test how much the reduction of L. monocytogenes load and transmission in hosts and habitats associated with these anthropogenic practices would reduce human exposure and consequently human listeriosis.

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