Listeria monocytogenes is a foodborne pathogen which is able to cause serious disease both in humans and in animals. Several studies have demonstrated variations in the levels of virulence among L. monocytogenes strains. Invasion and growth ability of L.monocytogenes into cultured cells have been used to evaluate its pathogenicity. In particular, invasiveness and growth ability have been typically investigated using HeLa cell line. This study aimed to provide further insights on the virulence potential aswell as on themolecular and phenotypic characteristics of L.monocytogenes isolated both fromfood sources and food environments. Thirty-eight isolateswere tested for cell invasion and intracellular growth. Among the latter, 15 strains exhibited a high invasion index (I.I.); 18 strains showed intermediate II and 5 isolates revealed a low II. Regarding intracellular growth, all tested isolates had a replication time between 2 and 6 h. Furthermore, nine virulence-associated genes (hlyA, actA, inlA, inlB, iap, plcA, plcB, mpl, prfA) were investigated by the multiplex PCR assay. All tested virulence genes were detected in all strains. Interestingly, a polymorphismwas observed in the actA gene. However, the polymorphism could not be related to a different level of invasion or intracellular growth. In conclusion, data presented in this study have revealed considerable differences in the ability of L. monocytogenes strains to invade host cells and suggest the presence of additional factors thatmay contribute to adhesion and invasion. Virulence of L. monocytogenes is still not fully understood in some respects. Further studies focused on the mechanisms of L. monocytogenes pathogenicity togetherwith the development ofmore reliable and efficientmethods for virulence determination in this species are still required.
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