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What is the Most Common Listeria Treatment?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The most common listeria treatment is a combination of ampicillin and gentamicin, two antibiotics which can kill the bacteria responsible for a listeria infection. In addition to antibiotic treatment, the patient will usually be monitored for signs of complications. The success of the treatment depends on when it is provided, and the patient's health. In patients with compromised immune systems or an infection which has been allowed to progress, even with listeria treatment death can occur.

Listeria or listeriosis is caused by infection with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium which most commonly enters the body through contaminated food. In healthy individuals, the body is often able to fight off the bacteria, sometimes with mild symptoms which are dismissed as general malaise. However, in people who are elderly, very young, or pregnant, infection with this bacterium can cause very serious illness which requires treatment.

People with a listeria infection experience symptoms like fever, vomiting, fatigue, and muscle weakness. This infection is extremely rare, which can sometimes make it difficult to recognize because doctors may not be expecting listeriosis. When patients go to the doctor for symptoms of “food poisoning,” they should document what they ate, and if possible, bring in samples of the food they consumed. Listeriosis is sometimes linked with improperly handled dairy products, for example, so if a patient got sick after eating something with cheese, a doctor might suspect listeriosis.

Patients with listeria infections usually receive treatment in a hospital environment. Listeria treatment is often administered intravenously, and in the case of infants, the patient may be kept in an intensive care unit and closely monitored. For pregnant women, it is extremely important to get treatment as soon as listeriosis is recognized, so that the infection will not have time to spread to the fetus. Listeria treatment can also include the provision of intravenous fluids along with monitoring of the patient's temperature.

Because listeria treatment is standardized, patients can usually receive excellent care in almost any hospital, as long as the hospital has adequate supplies of the medications used to treat listeria. There are a number of forms of ampicillin and gentamicin which can be used in listeria treatment. However, patients may find that urban hospitals are more quick to recognize listeriosis because they are more likely to have seen cases before and because staffers have more experience as a result of the high volume of medical emergencies they see every year.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By SailorJerry — On Aug 19, 2011

@Kat919 - My wife is expecting our first child and I have been the stereotypical first-time dad from hell - researching the hell out of everything and being just a tad on the overprotective side.

Apparently, a pregnant woman's immune system is weakened. That's actually intentional on the body's part; it keeps the immune system from attacking the baby. That's why pregnant women are more vulnerable to colds and such and have to be more careful about things like listeria.

I'm not sure why deli meats are such a hot spot. My guess is because they get handled a lot and then not cooked after being handled, so they can get contaminated and then sit around at the deli counter while the listeria grow and grow.

My wife's midwife actually said that eating deli meat wasn't that big a deal, because listeria infection is so very rare. But she said to be careful about the source - nothing that's been sitting out all day. When we went to a sandwich place, I pushed the meatball sub!

By Kat919 — On Aug 19, 2011

They often say that pregnant women should not eat deli meat because of the risk of listeria. Does anyone know what it is about deli meat that makes it so prone to listeria? And why are pregnant women so vulnerable to food illnesses, anyway?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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