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Scientists Isolate Food-Borne Bacterial Strain That Targets The Heart

January 25, 2011: 07:30 AM EST

Certain strains of the food-borne bacterium Listeria monocytogenes are able to invade the heart and lead to serious and difficult-to-treat heart infections in vulnerable populations, according to U.S. researchers. Listeria is often found in soft cheeses and chilled ready-to-eat products. Infections from listeria are usually mild in healthy individuals, but can cause serious illness in the elderly and other susceptible people. More than a third of listeria-related heart infections are fatal. Researchers found that mice infected with the cardiac isolate had 10 times as much bacteria in their hearts. But in the spleen and liver the levels of bacteria were equal in both groups of mice. The researchers concluded that cardiac-associated strains display modified proteins on their surface that enable the bacteria to easily enter cardiac cells, targeting and infecting the heart.

Francis Alonzo, III, et al., "Evidence for subpopulations of Listeria monocytogenes with enhanced invasion of cardiac cells", Journal of Medical Microbiology, January 25, 2011, © Society for General Microbiology
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