Researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York have discovered that bacteria living in the gut provide a first line of defense against severe Listeria infections. The study, which will be published June 6 in The Journal of Experimental Medicine, suggests that providing these bacteria in the form of probiotics could protect individuals who are particularly susceptible to Listeria, including pregnant women and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Listeria monocytogenes is a major pathogen acquired by eating contaminated food, but healthy adults can generally fend off an infection after suffering, at worst, a few days of gastroenteritis. However, some individuals, including infants, pregnant women, and immunocompromised cancer patients, are susceptible to more severe forms of listeriosis, in which the bacterium escapes the gastrointestinal tract and disseminates throughout the body, causing septicemia, meningitis, and, in many cases, death.
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