Research – Intensive Environmental Surveillance Plan for Listeria monocytogenes in Food Producing Plants and Retail Stores of Central Italy: Prevalence and Genetic Diversity


Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) can persist in food processing environments (FPEs), surviving environmental stresses and disinfectants. We described an intensive environmental monitoring plan performed in Central Italy and involving food producing plants (FPPs) and retail grocery stores (RSs). The aim of the study was to provide a snapshot of the Lm circulation in different FPEs during a severe listeriosis outbreak, using whole genome sequencing (WGS) to investigate the genetic diversity of the Lm isolated, evaluating their virulence and stress resistance profiles. A total of 1217 samples were collected in 86 FPEs with 12.0% of positive surfaces at FPPs level and 7.5% at RSs level; 133 Lm isolates were typed by multilocus sequencing typing (MLST) and core genome MLST (cgMLST). Clonal complex (CC) 121 (25.6%), CC9 (22.6%), CC1 (11.3%), CC3 (10.5%), CC191 (4.5%), CC7 (4.5%) and CC31 (3.8%) were the most frequent MLST clones. Among the 26 cgMLST clusters obtained, 5 of them persisted after sanitization and were re-isolated during the follow-up sampling. All the CC121 harboured the Tn6188_qac gene for tolerance to benzalkonium chloride and the stress survival islet SSI-2. The CC3, CC7, CC9, CC31 and CC191 carried the SSI-1. All the CC9 and CC121 strains presented a premature stop codon in the inlA gene. In addition to the Lm Pathogenicity Island 1 (LIPI-1), CC1, CC3 and CC191 harboured the LIPI-3. The application of intensive environmental sampling plans for the detection and WGS analysis of Lm isolates could improve surveillance and early detection of outbreaks. View Full-Text

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