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Listeria infection in young infants: results from a national surveillance study in the UK and Ireland
  1. Stefania Vergnano1,2,
  2. Gauri Godbole3,
  3. Ameze Simbo3,
  4. Alison Smith-Palmer4,
  5. Martin Cormican5,
  6. Anthony Mark6,
  7. Paul T Heath7
  1. 1Paediatric Infectious Diseases, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Bristol, UK
  2. 2Infection and Immunity, University of Bristol Faculty of Health Sciences, Bristol, UK
  3. 3Gastrointestinal Pathogens Unit, National Infection Service, Public Health England, London, UK
  4. 4Health Protection Scotland, Glasgow, UK
  5. 5Division of Microbiology, Galway University Hospitals, Galway, Ireland
  6. 6Neonatology, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
  7. 7Paediatric Infectious Disease Research Group, University of London Saint George's, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Stefania Vergnano, Paediatric Infectious Diseases, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Bristol BS2 8AE, UK; stefania.vergnano{at}


Objectives To describe the epidemiology, age at infection, clinical characteristics and outcome of listeria infection in young infants to inform management and empiric antibiotic choice in young infants.

Design Prospective 2-year surveillance of Listeria monocytogenes infection in young infants detected through the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit ‘orange card’ system and triangulated with the public health laboratories.

Setting National population study (England, Wales, Scotland and the Ireland)

Patients All infants under 90 days with proven or probable invasive listeriosis

Main outcome measures Incidence, mortality, age of infection, clinical characteristics and outcome

Results During a 2-year period (2017–2019), 27 cases of listeriosis in infants <90 days of age were reported. The incidence of listeriosis in this study was 1.8 per 100 000 live births with 7% mortality (2/27). Nearly all cases presented within the first 24 hours of life (26/27). The majority (20/27, 74%) were born preterm and 16/24 (67%) were born to women from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Conclusions Invasive listeriosis in young infants in the UK and Ireland is rare and presents early in the neonatal period. National guidelines that recommend the use of amoxicillin as part of empiric regimes for sepsis and meningitis in infants over 1 month of age should be modified.

  • epidemiology
  • microbiology
  • neonatology

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Anonymised data may be available upon reasonable request.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Anonymised data may be available upon reasonable request.

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  • Contributors PTH and SV had the original idea, wrote the initial proposal and the research questionnaires; GG, AS, AS-P and MC supported the study and provided data from the public health laboratories for data triangulation; AM commented on the original proposal and questionnaires; SV collected the data, analysed them and drafted the original manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.