Listeria is a bacterial genus that contains seven species. Named after the English pioneer of sterile surgery Joseph Lister, the genus received its current name in 1940. Listeria species are Gram-positive bacilli. The major human pathogen in the Listeria genus is L. monocytogenes. It is usually the causative agent of the relatively rare bacterial disease, listeriosis, a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria. The disease affects primarily pregnant women, newborns, adults with weakened immune systems, and the elderly.

Listeriosis is a serious disease for humans; the overt form of the disease has a mortality rate of about 20 percent. The two main clinical manifestations are sepsis and meningitis. Meningitis is often complicated by encephalitis, a pathology that is unusual for bacterial infections. Listeria ivanovii is a pathogen of mammals, specifically ruminants, and has rarely caused listeriosis in humans.

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