Listeria monocytogenes is an important food-borne pathogen and is widely tested for in food, environmental and clinical samples. Identification traditionally involved culture methods based on selective enrichment and plating followed by the characterization of Listeria spp. based on colony morphology, sugar fermentation and haemolytic properties. These methods are the gold standard; but they are lengthy and may not be suitable for testing of foods with short shelf lives. As a result more rapid tests were developed based on antibodies (ELISA) or molecular techniques (PCR or DNA hybridization). While these tests possess equal sensitivity, they are rapid and allow testing to be completed within 48 h. More recently, molecular methods were developed that target RNA rather than DNA, such as RT-PCR, real time PCR or nucleic acid based sequence amplification (NASBA). These tests not only provide a measure of cell viability but they can also be used for quantitative analysis. In addition, a variety of tests are available for sub-species characterization, which are particularly useful in epidemiological investigations. Early typing methods differentiated isolates based on phenotypic markers, such as multilocus enzyme electrophoresis, phage typing and serotyping. These phenotypic typing methods are being replaced by molecular tests, which reflect genetic relationships between isolates and are more accurate. These new methods are currently mainly used in research but their considerable potential for routine testing in the future cannot be overlooked.
FEMS Microbiology Reviews Vol. 29, Issue 5, p. 851-875