Neonatal listeriosis is a rare but severe disease manifesting as septicemia and central nervous system (CNS) infections with a high fatality rate of around 20% to 30%. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is a promising technique for pathogen identification and infection source tracing with its high resolution.
A case of neonatal sepsis with listeriosis was reported with positive blood culture for Listeria monocytogenes. The case was investigated to confirm the vertical transmission of the infection and identify the potential food source of the maternal L. monocytogenes infection using WGS. L. monocytogenes was isolated from the neonate’s blood sample the day after caesarean delivery and from the mother’s genital and pudenda swab samples 5 days and 13 days after caesarean delivery. WGS showed that the isolate from the neonate was identical to the main genome type of the isolates from the mother, with only one of the 4 isolates from the mother differing by one single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). By WGS, one L. monocytogenes isolate from a ready-to-eat (RTE) meat sample in the patients’ community market shared the same sequence type but was ruled out as the cause of infection, with 57 SNP differences to the strain causing the maternal-neonatal infection. The food isolate also carried a novel plasmid pLM1686 that harbored heavy metal resistance genes. After caesarean section, the mother was treated with cephalosporin, which L. monocytogenes is naturally resistant to, which may explain why genital and pudenda swabs were still culture-positive for L. monocytogenes 13 days after delivery.
Genital swab culture for L. monocytogenes had been informative in the diagnosis of maternal listeriosis in this case. The high resolution of WGS confirmed the maternal-neonatal transmission of L. monocytogenes infection and improved source tracing.