Veterinary microbiology

Outbreak investigation identifies a single Listeria monocytogenes strain in sheep with different clinical manifestations, soil and water.

PMID 25726302


Listeria (L.) monocytogenes causes orally acquired infections and is of major importance in ruminants. Little is known about L. monocytogenes transmission between farm environment and ruminants. In order to determine potential sources of infection, we investigated the distribution of L. monocytogenes genetic subtypes in a sheep farm during a listeriosis outbreak by applying four subtyping methods (MALDI-TOF-MS, MLST, MLVA and PFGE). L. monocytogenes was isolated from a lamb with septicemia and from the brainstem of three sheep with encephalitis. Samples from the farm environment were screened for the presence of L. monocytogenes during the listeriosis outbreak, four weeks and eight months after. L. monocytogenes was found only in soil and water tank swabs during the outbreak. Four weeks later, following thorough cleaning of the barn, as well as eight months later, L. monocytogenes was absent in environmental samples. All environmental and clinical L. monocytogenes isolates were found to be the same strain. Our results show that the outbreak involving two different clinical syndromes was caused by a single L. monocytogenes strain and that soil and water tanks were potential infection sources during this outbreak. However, silage cannot be completely ruled out as the bales fed prior to the outbreak were not available for analysis. Faeces samples were negative, suggesting that sheep did not act as amplification hosts contributing to environmental contamination. In conclusion, farm management appears to be a crucial factor for the limitation of a listeriosis outbreak.