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Genetic code for Listeria bacterium discovered
By Birgit Hofmann

European scientists have succeeded in decoding the genome of Listeria monocytogenes, a type of bacterium that can cause listeriosis, a serious food-related infection. The discovery was a combined effort by a European consortium led by Pascale Cossart, head of the French l'Unité des Interactions Bactéries-Cellules at the Institut Pasteur in Paris.

Cycle of Listeria infection.

"It's the first stage," the spokesperson for the Institut Pasteur told the press. "It opens up possibilities which could accelerate research into the genes responsible for the infection."

L. monocytogenes is a bacterium often found in soil, sewage, silage, dust, and water as well as in the feces of animals and humans. It is most commonly transmitted to humans by foods such as processed cold meats and unpasteurized dairy products.

Food-borne listeriosis, fatal in up to 30 percent of cases, can cause fever, severe headache, diarrhea, and serious infections that are especially dangerous for pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.

The research findings were presented at the recent international conference GENOMES 2000, which took place in Paris April 11-15, 2000.

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Le génome de la Listeria entièrement séquencé. Institut Pasteur, Paris, France (April 12, 2000).

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