Considerable effort has been put into the application of quantitative microbiological risk assessment for Listeria monocytogenes, and data are available for England and Wales (probably more so than most other countries) on the adverse health effects, together with incidence data on different age and risk groups for human L. monocytogenes infections. This paper reviews aspects of Listeria and human listeriosis, especially from a public health perspective and provide hazard characterisation data, i.e. the qualitative and/or quantitative evaluation of the adverse health effect associated with the hazard, which is the relationship between exposure levels (dose) and frequency of illness. The majority of cases of human listeriosis are food-borne; however, the disease process is complex with multiple routes of infection. The dose-response relationship is poorly understood, and data from human volunteer studies are not available and would be unethical to produce. Data are available from a range of different animal and in vitro models, although these poorly mimic the natural disease process in route of infection, end point, host and history of prior exposure to the bacterium. Epidemiological data provide some information on infective doses and dose responses, but because of the characteristics of the disease (the hugely variable and potentially very long incubation periods, the low attack rates and the rarity of identification of specific food vehicles), this also provides limited data for calculation of dose responses. There is some, albeit limited, evidence for strain variation, but this is an area of considerable uncertainty despite great advances in the genetic basis of the virulence of this bacterium, and almost all strains seem capable of causing serious disease. A variety of mathematical approaches have been used to model dose responses. The review is written to provide a clinical and epidemiological background to the mathematically oriented, as well as to outline the mathematical approaches to those interested in food-borne infection.
- Hazard characterisation
- Human listeriosis
- Listeria monocytogenes
- Microbiological risk assessment