Manchester University The rare yet fatal serious food-borne illness, listeriosis presumably triggered by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes seems to affect cancer patients. Scientists from the University of Manchester and Health Protection Agency assert that cancer patients face a five-fold increased risk of developing listeria than people with other underlying conditions. The threat was possibly greatest among patients who suffer from cancers of the blood.

Throughout the study experts reviewed 1,413 people who were suffering from listeria between 1999 and 2009. It was mentioned that pregnant women and their unborn or new-born children were not encompassed in the investigation. A total of 936 representing more than two-thirds apparently had one or more concurrent condition. Investigators examined the results of those with concurrent conditions. It appeared that people aged 60 years or above share a higher rate of listeria at 16.8 per million. On the other hand, younger people reported a rate of 4.6 per million.

Professor Sarah O’Brien, who is based in Manchester’s School of Translational Medicine, remarked, “Our work with the Health Protection Agency has shown that people receiving cancer treatment or who have conditions like diabetes, kidney or liver disease, are at much higher risk of listeria infection and so need good food-safety advice about preventing it. Certain foods, like prepacked or delicatessen sliced meats, soft cheeses, smoked fish, pates and unpasteurised milk, are known to increase the risk of listeria infection in vulnerable people. This research is a timely reminder to clinicians looking after people in these vulnerable groups to alert them to avoid high-risk foods and thereby reduce their risk of this serious illness.”

The rate of listeria probably was 4.9 times higher for cancer patients than patients with other concurrent conditions. Those diagnosed with cancers of the blood registered a 17.6 times higher risk than patients with other conditions. Cancer appeared as the most common concurrent condition among cases of listeria. Blood-borne cancers apparently accounted for 41 percent of the reported cancers. Risk of developing listeria may also be boosted by diseases of the liver, kidney and connective tissue, alcoholism, diabetes, high blood pressure as well as inflammation of the intestines.

The study is published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.