An ongoing dialogue on HIV/AIDS, infectious diseases,
November 5th, 2011
A Mysteriosis about Listeriosis
For obvious reasons, listeriosis has been much in the news recently. The latest information from CDC on the Colorado cantaloupe outbreak cites 139 cases and 29 deaths.
The recent outbreak aside, however, actual cases of listeriosis are pretty rare. We easily could go months (or even over a year) in our hospital without seeing a single case, and we have the largest obstetrical service in New England.
Which brings me to the mystery part: Why is medical student knowledge about listeria so high?
I meet with the medical students to review basics of antibiotics at the beginning of every rotation. Depending on the time of year and the number of prior clinical rotations they’ve done, they have variable amounts of ID knowledge before they get here.
But all of them know about listeria. And they know a lot about it.
- Causative organism? (Listeria monocytogenes — check)
- Dietary risk factors? (deli meats, soft cheeses, now cantaloupes — check)
- Population at risk? (pregnant women, transplant patients, and the elderly — check)
- Clinical manifestations? (meningitis, sepsis, gastroenteritis — check)
- Antibiotic of choice? (ampicillin — check)
They seem to know way more about listeria than they do about far more common infections, such as Strep pneumoniae or Epstein-Barr virus.
It’s the oddest thing. Any proposed explanations for this remarkable expertise would be most welcome.