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Genetic variability among isolates of Listeria monocytogenes from food products, clinical samples and processing environments, estimated by RAPD typing


RAPD analysis with four primers was used to examine the genetic relationship among 432 strains of Listeria monocytogenes isolated from clinical and veterinarian cases of listeriosis, dairy, vegetable, meat- and fish-based food items, environmental samples and samples collected from one transport terminal, one poultry-processing company and four Atlantic salmon-processing plants. The purpose of the study was to determine whether clinical isolates belonged to a specific genetic group, whether links could be made between food groups and clinical cases and whether specific genetic groups were associated with specific food products or processing units. There was great genetic variability among the isolates, which produced a total of 141 RAPD composites based on the RAPD analysis with four primers. The RAPD composites divided in two major clusters and clinical isolates were evenly distributed in both of them. None of the isolates from food products had the same RAPD composite as isolates from human patients, thus, no particular food commodity could be linked to clinical cases. Each food-processing environment was contaminated with more than one RAPD composite and the genetic variability found within each company was, in most cases, of approximately the same magnitude as the variability found when considering all the samples. In each plant, one or a few types persisted over time, indicating the presence of an established in-house flora. Our results indicate that most of the analysed cases of listeriosis were sporadic and, further, that these cases cannot be traced to a few specific food sources. We also found that no particular RAPD composite was better suited for survival in specific food types or food-processing environments, indicating that although differences may be found in virulence properties of individual strains, all L. monocytogenes must be treated as potentially harmful.


Academic article




  • iciar Martinez
  • Liv Marit Rørvik
  • Vigdis Brox
  • Jørgen Lassen
  • Marit Seppola
  • Lone Gram
  • Birte Fonnesbech-Vogel


  • Nofima, The Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research
  • SINTEF Ocean
  • Norges miljø- og biovitenskapelige universitet
  • Norwegian Institute of Public Health
  • Danish Institute for Fisheries Research



Published in

International journal of food microbiology





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