Whole-genome sequencing allows for improved identification of persistent Listeria monocytogenes in food-associated environments

Matthew J. Stasiewicz, Haley F. Oliver, Martin Wiedmann, Henk C. den Bakker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While the food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes can persist in food associated environments, there are no whole-genome sequence (WGS) based methods to differentiate persistent from sporadic strains. Whole-genome sequencing of 188 isolates from a longitudinal study of L. monocytogenes in retail delis was used to (i) apply single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)-based phylogenetics for subtyping of L. monocytogenes, (ii) use SNP counts to differentiate persistent from repeatedly reintroduced strains, and (iii) identify genetic determinants of L. monocytogenes persistence. WGS analysis revealed three prophage regions that explained differences between three pairs of phylogenetically similar populations with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis types that differed by ≤3 bands. WGS-SNP-based phylogenetics found that putatively persistent L. monocytogenes represent SNP patterns (i) unique to a single retail deli, supporting persistence within the deli (11 clades), (ii) unique to a single state, supporting clonal spread within a state (7 clades), or (iii) spanning multiple states (5 clades). Isolates that formed one of 11 deli-specific clades differed by a median of 10 SNPs or fewer. Isolates from 12 putative persistence events had significantly fewer SNPs (median, 2 to 22 SNPs) than between isolates of the same subtype from other delis (median up to 77 SNPs), supporting persistence of the strain. In 13 events, nearly indistinguishable isolates (0 to 1 SNP) were found across multiple delis. No individual genes were enriched among persistent isolates compared to sporadic isolates. Our data show that WGS analysis improves food-borne pathogen subtyping and identification of persistent bacterial pathogens in food associated environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6024-6037
Number of pages14
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number17
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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