Researchers at the Madison School of Veterinary Medicine conducted a study which indicates that the Listeria pathogens can adversely affect the fetus during pregnancy and may even cause miscarriage during the early stages, in some cases.

The results of their research have been published in the journal mBio on Feb 21.

"Listeria has been associated with adverse outcomes in pregnancy, but particularly at the end of pregnancy," said Ted Golos, a UW-Madison professor of comparative biosciences and reproductive physiologist

Effects Of Listeria

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that Listeria afflicts a relatively small number of Americans each year. Among those infected, most are either newborn babies or older adults with weak immune systems.

Sophia Kathariou, a North Carolina State University professor of microbiology and food science represented the cases of around 11 pregnant women who faced stillbirth, miscarriage and premature delivery in 2000 due to the infection.

Procedure And Result Of The Research

The trial involved several animals, such as monkeys who were pregnant. Researchers assessed the animals by ingesting them with the Listeria infection. Later, the animals were analyzed by conducting ultrasound of their fetus.

The study revealed that none of the mother monkeys were infected themselves before the end of their pregnancies. It seemed that the Listeria invaded the placenta which prevented the transmission of the bacteria to the mother.

The researchers concluded that Listeria or several other pathogens are the vital reasons of miscarriages and the bacteria's speed makes it hard to cure.

Preventive Measures

To prevent the infection, pregnant women are advised to avoid several foods, such as unpasteurized milk, soft cheese, raw sprouts and also melon and deli meats which are not carefully handled. These foods tend to harbor Listeria bacterium.

The researchers also stated that the symptom of Listeria infection during pregnancy is indistinguishable, as there are several similar discomforts that a pregnant woman may naturally face during the early stages of pregnancy. Therefore, it becomes difficult to diagnose the infection.

Bryce Wolfe, a UW-Madison graduate student, who also monitored the progression of Listeria, suggested the availability of severable effective antibiotics.

Wolfe, along with Golos, is further planning to study Listeria and resolve questions concerning the process of bacteria targeting the reproductive tract, its incubation time and its connectivity with the disease. They plan to provide basic knowledge regarding the maternal immune effect on intracellular pathogens during pregnancy that will likely help in the cure of other diseases.

While Listeria is not treated as seriously as the Zika virus for now, its potential danger warrants people to stay vigilant against it as well.

Photo: Nicu Buculei | Flickr

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