During pregnancy, the woman must take care of her diet to avoid any setback that could endanger her health and that of the baby in her gut. Along with toxoplasmosis and salmonellosis, listeriosis in pregnancy it may pose a risk to its development. We tell you how to prevent this bacterial infection, what its symptoms are and what foods contain Listeria monocytogenes.
Listeriosis is a food-borne illness caused by a bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes, one of the most virulent food pathogens that we can find (second only to Salmonella and Clostridium botulinum), since around 15% of listeriosis cases in the Union European tend to prove deadly.
Listeriosis is contracted by consuming food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, as well as by contact with animals that carry the microorganism or with people who have the disease, even if they have not yet manifested symptoms.
Pregnant women are among the high-risk groups for listeriosis, since Listeria monocytogenes, like many other bacteria, is able to cross the placental barrier naturally, reaching the fetus.
During pregnancy, Listeria monocytogenes can cause miscarriages, premature birth, infection in the newborn (it is one of the most common causative agents of meningitis in newborns), and sometimes even death of the fetus.
The symptoms of listeriosis are variedFrom relatively mild flu symptoms including nausea, vomiting and / or diarrhea, to other more serious symptoms such as meningitis and complications that can be fatal.
Ideally, when the infection is caught early, antibiotics can stop the infection. Unfortunately, the fact that the initial symptoms are so easy to confuse with other infections complicates its diagnosis, being detected, in many cases, when it is too late and it has turned into invasive listeriosis.
Another added difficulty in the diagnosis of this food poisoning is the wide time frame in which the symptoms can appear, since the incubation period can last between 3 and 70 days. This is why avoiding cross contamination and eliminating any presence of Listeria monocytogenes from the pregnant woman's diet is the best defense.
Listeria monocytogenes occurs naturally in the environment, in addition to some plants and even in water. Additionally, some animals, such as ruminants and some birds, can be carriers of this bacterium, so their meat and other derived products can have a high load of the microorganism.
In food, This microorganism has traditionally been found in smoked fish, sausages and cold cuts and especially in soft cheeses (mozzarella, brie, camembert ...). Raw milk and all derivatives made with raw milk are potentially the most dangerous, since the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, in addition to being very frequent, is usually extremely high. Furthermore, Listeria monocytogenes has also been found in raw vegetables, especially in ready-made salads.
Unfortunately, this microorganism can easily survive both in the presence and in the absence of oxygen, in addition to being able to multiply even at low temperatures, which makes it difficult to control. Listeria monocytogenes can even multiply by refrigeration and can also tolerate high concentrations of salt, which makes it even more dangerous, since brine and refrigeration / freezing are some of the most widespread food preservation methods.
Freezing, although it prevents the growth of this pathogen, does not eliminate the microorganism, so the risk, if the microbial load of the food was high, is still present after freezing.
Preventing contagion during pregnancy is vital, since the danger to the fetus is extreme. The pregnant woman should take extreme precautions by following these guidelines:
- Avoiding the consumption of the mentioned foods
Cheeses made with raw milk and those that, although they are made with pasteurized milk, do not have a maturation process such as fresh cheese, smoked fish, cold cuts and cold cuts including patés and other refrigerated spreads such as sobrasada.
- Washing well any fruit and / or vegetable that is going to be consumed raw, even if it is already washed
Chemicals can be used to ensure the elimination of all pathogenic microorganisms, as long as any remaining chemical is thoroughly washed off afterwards. Large fruits such as melon that are kept in the refrigerator and eaten for several days can be susceptible to cross contamination, so it is better to eat it during the day or to take extreme precautions during its refrigeration.
- Heat any type of meat above 75C
Including those that are pre-cooked such as frankfurters and cold cuts, to ensure the elimination of the pathogen.
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