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PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e42448. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042448. Epub 2012 Jul 31.

Genomic characterization of Listeria monocytogenes strains involved in a multistate listeriosis outbreak associated with cantaloupe in US.

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Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA, Laurel, Maryland, United States of America.


A multistate listeriosis outbreak associated with cantaloupe consumption was reported in the United States in September, 2011. The outbreak investigation recorded a total of 146 invasive illnesses, 30 deaths and one miscarriage. Subtyping of the outbreak associated clinical, food and environmental isolates revealed two serotypes (1/2a and 1/2b) and four pulsed-field gel electrophoresis two-enzyme pattern combinations I, II, III, and IV, including one rarely seen before this outbreak. A DNA-microarray, Listeria GeneChip®, developed by FDA from 24 Listeria monocytogenes genome sequences, was used to further characterize a representative sample of the outbreak isolates. The microarray data (in the form of present or absent calls of specific DNA sequences) separated the isolates into two distinct groups as per their serotypes. The gene content of the outbreak-associated isolates was distinct from that of the previously-reported outbreak strains belonging to the same serotypes. Although the 1/2b outbreak associated isolates are closely related to each other, the 1/2a isolates could be further divided into two distinct genomic groups, one represented by pattern combination I strains and the other represented by highly similar pattern combinations III and IV strains. Gene content analysis of these groups revealed unique genomic sequences associated with these two 1/2a genovars. This work underscores the utility of multiple approaches, such as serotyping, PFGE and DNA microarray analysis to characterize the composition of complex polyclonal listeriosis outbreaks.

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