Listeria monocytogenes is a foodborne pathogen of significant concern to the agricultural and food processing industry because of its ability to grow and persist in cool and moist environments and its association with listeriosis, a disease with a very high mortality rate. Although there have been no listeriosis outbreaks attributed to fresh mushrooms in the United States, retail surveys and recalls are evidence that L. monocytogenes contamination of mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) can occur. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of Listeria spp., including L. monocytogenes, in a small-scale mushroom production facility on the campus of the Pennsylvania State University in the United States. Of 184 samples taken from five production zones within the facility, 29 (15.8%) samples were positive for Listeria spp. Among the Listeria spp. isolates, L. innocua was most prevalent (10.3%) followed by L. welshimeri (3.3%), L. monocytogenes (1.6%), and L. grayi (0.5%). L. monocytogenes was recovered only from the phase I raw material composting area. Isolates of L. monocytogenes were confirmed and serotyped by multiplex PCR. The epidemiological relatedness of the three L. monocytogenes isolates to those serotypes or lineages frequently encountered in listeriosis infections was determined by multi-virulence-locus sequence typing using six virulence genes, namely, prfA, inlB, inlC, dal, clpP, and lisR. The phylogenetic positions of the three isolates in the dendrogram prepared with data from other isolates of L. monocytogenes showed that all isolates were grouped with serotype 4a, lineage IIIA. To date, this serotype has rarely been reported in foodborne disease outbreaks.

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Author notes

Present address: Accugenix Inc., 223 Lake Drive, Newark, DE 19702, USA.

Present address: University of Wisconsin–Stout, Menomonie, WI 54751, USA.