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Brussels, April 18, 2000

Sustained European Union effort to control listeriosis
Listeria genome fully sequenced - analysis launched

Keywords: listeria, sequencing, bacteria, food, health

Working under a research project cofinanced by the European Union, a consortium of 10 European research laboratories co-ordinated by the Pasteur Institute has just completed the full sequence of the genome of Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium involved in a potentially lethal form of food-poisoning. A follow-up project has been launched to understand how listeria infects and survives, both in the environment and in infected patients.

Listeria monocytogenes is responsible for severe food contamination causing listeriosis, where 20-30% of cases are fatal. The disease can lead to septicaemia, brain infections and miscarriage, and tends to affect particular at-risk groups such as new-born babies, pregnant women, immuno-compromised people and the elderly. It occurs both as isolated cases and as small epidemics resulting from people eating contaminated food. Such an epidemic in France recently caused 9 deaths. Listeria is both a public health problem and an economic problem for the agro-food business: foods (particularly cheeses and prepared meat products) regularly have to be withdrawn from the market due to contamination.

The complete sequence of the Listeria monocytogenes genome has now been determined by a consortium of 10 laboratories from France, Germany and Spain, co-ordinated by Prof. Pascale Cossart of the Pasteur Institute and funded by the EU's Biotechnology programme. The availability of this sequence will allow comparative analyses with other bacteria and should help identify the genes involved in pathogenicity. It will also improve research on Listeria's mode of action.

With this in view, a follow-up project called Realis has just been launched under the generic research activities of the EU's 'Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources' programme. It involves nine partners and is co-ordinated by Prof. Jürgen Wehland of the GBF (Gesellschaft für Biotechnologische Forschung mbH) in Braunschweig. Realis is aimed at analysing the genome and studying the genes that enable Listeria monocytogenes to survive and adapt both in the environment and in the infected patient. This will have an impact on risk management in agriculture, the food industry and health-care, as it should facilitate the development of rational approaches to curbing food-borne contaminations and minimising risks of infection. Within the 'Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources' programme, this investigation on the genome of Listeria is complemented by research aimed at 'assuring the safety and integrity of the food supply' - one of the objectives of the key action on 'Food, Nutrition and Health'.

For further information, please contact:

Stéphane Hogan
Quality of Life programme, Research DG
Fax: +32.2.299.1860
E-mail: Research Contact

Stephen Gosden
Communication Unit, Research DG
Fax: +32.2.29.58220
E-mail: Stephen.Gosden@ec.europa.eu


1 The Biotechnology programme was part of the EU's Fourth Framework Programme (1994-1998), under which 456 research projects were funded, including several genome sequencing projects.

1 The 'Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources' programme is one of the four thematic programmes in the EU's Fifth Framework Programme (1998-2002) with a budget of €2 413 million. It is characterised by a problem-solving approach embodied by six key actions, underpinned by generic research activities and support for research infrastructure.

For more information about the European Union's research activities in the field of life sciences and technologies: http://cordis.europa.eu/life/

The European Consortium for the sequencing of Listeria monocytogenes Biotechnology 2 programme (1994-98)


Coordination:
Institut Pasteur, Paris (FR)
- Prof. Pascale Cossart
Unité des Interactions Bactéries-Cellules
e-mail: pcossart@pasteur.fr

- Dr. Philippe Glaser
Laboratoire de Génomique des Micro-organismes Pathogènes

- Prof. Werner Goebel
TBI-Biozentrum, Lehrstuhl für Mikrobiologie
Universität Würzburg (DE)

- Prof. José A. Vazquez-Boland
Microbiologia e Immunologia,
Facultad de Veterinaria,
Universidad Complutense Madrid (ES)

- Prof. Trinad Chakraborty
Institute for Medical Microbiology
Justus Leibig Universität
Giessen (DE)

- Prof. Patrick Berche
Unité INSERM U411
Faculté de Médecine Necker - Enfants Malades, Paris, (FR)

- Prof. Fernando Baquero
Servicio de Microbiologia,
Hospital Ramon y Cajal, Madrid (ES)

- Prof. Francisco Garcia-del Portillo
Centro de Biologia Molecular 'Severo Ochoa',
Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (ES)

- Prof. Jürgen Wehland
Dept. Cell biology & Immunology
GBF (Gesellschaft für Biotechnologische Forschung mbH) - Braunschweig (DE)

- Prof. Karl Dieter ENTIAN
Scientific Research & Development GmbH
Frankfurt/Maine (DE)

- Prof. Hartmut Voss
LION bioscience AG
Heidelberg (DE)

Realis - post-genomic analysis of the lifestyles of Listeria monocytogenes Quality of Life programme (1999-2002)


Coordination:
- Prof. Jürgen Wehland
e-mail: wehland@gbf.de
Dept. Cell biology & Immunology
GBF (Gesellschaft für Biotechnologische Forschung mbH) - Braunschweig (DE)

- Prof. Trinad Chakraborty
Institute for Medical Microbiology
Justus Leibig Universität
Giessen (DE)

- Prof. Werner Goebel
TBI-Biozentrum, Lehrstuhl für Mikrobiologie
Universität Würzburg (DE)

- Prof. Pascale Cossart
Unité des Interactions Bactéries-Cellules
Institut Pasteur, Paris (FR)

- Prof. Fernando Baquero
Servicio de Microbiologia,
Hospital Ramon y Cajal, Madrid (ES)

- Prof. Jose A. Vazquez-Boland
Microbiologia e Immunologia,
Facultad de Veterinaria,
Universidad Complutense Madrid (ES)

- Prof. Francisco Garcia-del Portillo
Centro de Biologia Molecular 'Severo Ochoa',
Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (ES)

- Dr. Jean-Michel Soulié
Sorebad SA
La Boissière Ecole (FR)

- Prof. Hartmut Voss
LION bioscience AG
Heidelberg (DE)

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PRESS RELEASES | 18.04.2000