Animal Health Research Reviews

Review Article

Pathogenesis of listeriosis during pregnancy

Keith P. Poulsena1 c1 and Charles J. Czuprynskia2

a1 Department of Clinical Sciences, Oregon State University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA

a2 Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA


Listeria monocytogenes causes several clinical manifestations in humans and domestic animals. This bacterium is a saprophyte in soil and ensiled feeds, which are sources of infection for food producing animals (i.e. ruminants). The most common route of infection for people is via ingestion of contaminated ready-to-eat food products such as produce, soft cheeses and deli meats. In the United States, L. monocytogenes causes relatively few cases of clinical disease compared to other food-borne pathogens. However, clinical listeriosis is associated with high mortality, especially in immunocompromised patients, pregnant women, neonates, and the elderly. Listeria is an intracellular pathogen, which has been widely used in basic research to elucidate mechanisms of molecular pathogenesis and protective cell-mediated immunity. Despite the sizeable knowledge on L. monocytogenes pathogenesis, key points regarding listeriosis during pregnancy and the perinatal period remain unknown. This review summarizes listeriosis in humans and domestic animals during pregnancy, and animal models used to study the pathogenesis and immune response to L. monocytogenes infection during these periods.

(Received November 10 2012)

(Accepted November 29 2012)

(Online publication January 25 2013)


  • Listeria monocytogenes ;
  • pregnancy;
  • animal model


c1 Corresponding author. E-mail: