Abstract: A total of 48 Listeria monocytogenes isolates of different import food products from 8 provinces between 2005 and 2008 were characterized. The serotype and virulence were confirmed for each strain and molecular subtyping were analyzed by multilocus sequence typing (MLST). Twenty five strains were assigned to serotype 1/2a, and 11 isolates to serotype 1/2b, serotype 4b were found in 7 isolate, and the remaining 5 strains were grouped into serotypes 1/2c, 4a, and 4e. Molecular subtyping schemes found thirty two sequence types (STs) among these isolates and the majority of L. monocytogenes strains belonged to lineage II (56%), followed by lineage I (38%), lineage III (6%). Two molecular subtype clusters, cluster A included all isolates of lineage II, while cluster B contained the isolates of lineages I and lineages III. Two L. monocytogenes strains were not grouped in either of the two clusters. Fifty three isolates were as virulent as L. monocytogenes reference strain EGD in mouse virulence assay, while the isolates 22213 and 22265 had low pathogenicity. These results provide the first molecular insight into the L. monocytogenes strains isolated from import food products of 8 provinces in China and indicate the potential risk to cause human disease if intake by contaminated foods. MLST could be used as a routine subtyping method of L. monocytogenes isolates. In China, inspection and quarantine strategies of imported foods should be strengthened.
Practical Application: There is a potential risk of listeriosis in China and routine subtyping of L. monocytogenes isolates is important. It is necessary for food hygiene management to strengthen the supervision of imported foods.