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Clin Infect Dis. 2013 Jan;56(1):20-6. doi: 10.1093/cid/cis817. Epub 2012 Sep 20.

Hospital-acquired listeriosis outbreak caused by contaminated diced celery--Texas, 2010.

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  • 1Emerging and Acute Infectious Diseases Branch, Texas Department of State Health Services, 1100 W 49th St, Austin, TX 78756, USA.



Listeria monocytogenes causes often-fatal infections affecting mainly immunocompromised persons. Sources of hospital-acquired listeriosis outbreaks can be difficult to identify. We investigated a listeriosis outbreak spanning 7 months and involving 5 hospitals.


Outbreak-related cases were identified by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and confirmed by multiple-locus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis (MLVA). We conducted patient interviews, medical records reviews, and hospital food source evaluations. Food and environmental specimens were collected at a hospital (hospital A) where 6 patients had been admitted before listeriosis onset; these specimens were tested by culture, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and PFGE. We collected and tested food and environmental samples at the implicated processing facility.


Ten outbreak-related patients were immunocompromised by ≥1 underlying conditions or treatments; 5 died. All patients had been admitted to or visited an acute-care hospital during their possible incubation periods. The outbreak strain of L. monocytogenes was isolated from chicken salad and its diced celery ingredient at hospital A, and in 19 of >200 swabs of multiple surfaces and in 8 of 11 diced celery products at the processing plant. PCR testing detected Listeria in only 3 of 10 environmental and food samples from which it was isolated by culturing. The facility was closed, products were recalled, and the outbreak ended.


Contaminated diced celery caused a baffling, lengthy outbreak of hospital-acquired listeriosis. PCR testing often failed to detect the pathogen, suggesting its reliability should be further evaluated. Listeriosis risk should be considered in fresh produce selections for immunocompromised patients.

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