Skip to main content

A case of Listeria monocytogenes endophthalmitis with recurrent inflammation and novel management



Listeria monocytogenes is a rare cause of endogenous endophthalmitis. In the limited number of reported Listeria endophthalmitis cases, visual acuity outcomes have been very poor.


Here, we report a case of Listeria endophthalmitis that was complicated by recurrent inflammation. The patient required treatment with both intravitreal and long-term systemic antibiotics. An anterior chamber washout was necessary for the patient to regain 20/20 visual acuity.


This case highlights the importance of considering Listeria early in the disease course, as it has low sensitivity to standard empiric antibiotic therapy. It also stresses the importance of addressing damaging inflammation in infectious conditions.



Listeria monocytogenes is a gram-positive bacillus transmitted through contaminated food including unpasteurized dairy products, meats, seafood, and raw vegetables. It is typically associated with gastrointestinal illness and rarely affects the eye [1]. The most common form of ocular listeriosis in adults is conjunctivitis, although keratitis, endophthalmitis, and chorioretinitis have also been described [25]. Listeria endogenous endophthalmitis has been described in both immunocompetent and immunocompromised patients [2, 6]. While there are few L. monocytogenes endophthalmitis cases in the literature, Jackson et al. isolated L. monocytogenes in 10 of 267 endogenous endophthalmitis cases [7].

L. monocytogenes endophthalmitis typically presents with eye pain, increased intraocular pressure (IOP), and a fibrinous anterior chamber reaction. Many cases develop an evolving dark hypopyon due to iris pigment dispersion [8]. Most reports have final vision worse than 20/200, and only two reports document final visual acuity better than 20/60 [6, 9, 10]. We present a case of endogenous L. monocytogenes endophthalmitis in a healthy male who recovered 20/20 vision after aggressive intravitreal and systemic antibiotic therapy and anterior chamber washout. His follow-up course was complicated by recurrent inflammation. To our knowledge, this is the first reported case of Listeria endophthalmitis complicated by recurrent inflammation. This case highlights the importance of early diagnosis and treatment with consideration of early surgical intervention following antibiotic therapy to produce a better visual outcome.

Case report

A 58-year-old Caucasian man presented with increasing right eye redness and tearing for 2 days. The patient’s past medical history was significant for well-controlled type 2 diabetes mellitus. On initial clinical exam, visual acuity was 20/400 in the right eye and 20/20 in the left eye. His intraocular pressure was 51 mmHg in the right eye and 17 mmHg in the left eye. Slit-lamp examination of the right eye showed 3+ conjunctival injection, corneal edema, and a fibrinous reaction in the anterior chamber. His left eye exam was unremarkable.

The patient’s right eye was treated with maximum medical therapy for the intraocular pressure but failed to respond. An anterior chamber paracentesis was performed to lower his intraocular pressure, and he was continued on maximum IOP-lowering agents. On follow-up the next day, visual acuity was 20/70 and intraocular pressure was 43 mmHg in the right eye. The remainder of the exam was unchanged. The patient was started on valacyclovir 1 g three times a day and topical prednisolone acetate for presumed herpetic keratouveitis. The following day, a paracentral epithelial defect and a 4-mm hypopyon was seen (Fig. 1). B-scan ultrasound showed anterior vitritis. Anterior chamber tap was performed and intravitreal vancomycin and ceftazidime were injected for suspected infectious endophthalmitis. The patient was started on fortified vancomycin and ceftazidime drops as well.

Fig. 1
figure 1

Photo documenting the development of a large hypopyon in the anterior chamber after having undergone a paracentesis

Over the next few days, the hypopyon increased in size and oral prednisone was started (Fig. 2). Culture of the anterior chamber tap grew L. monocytogenes. Intravitreal amikacin was given upon result of the anterior chamber tap due to poor coverage of vancomycin for Listeria. An infectious disease consult was obtained; systemic antibiotic therapy was initiated including a 1-month course of intravenous 3 g ampicillin every 6 h and oral double-strength trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole twice a day. Oral steroids were stopped, and fortified antibiotic drops were changed to topical gentamicin.

Fig. 2
figure 2

At follow-up after having undergone a tap and injection of vancomycin and ceftazidime, the hypopyon was larger. He was started on oral steroids

The patient’s vision and exam slowly improved. The hypopyon, however, consolidated into a dense mass (Fig. 3); an anterior chamber washout was performed 2 weeks after initial presentation due to progressive corneal edema and lack of resolution. His ocular antihypertensives and steroids were slowly tapered. Four weeks status post anterior chamber washout, his visual acuity was 20/20 and dilated fundus exam was unremarkable.

Fig. 3
figure 3

After improvement in both the infection and his vision, the hypopyon had organized into a consolidated dense mass. He underwent anterior chamber washout

Two days after his antibiotic course was completed, the patient presented with redness and right eye pain. Visual acuity was 20/40, intraocular pressure was 20 mmHg, and the patient had 2–3+ cells in the anterior chamber. Concerned for recurrence, an anterior chamber tap was performed, oral trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole was restarted, and topical gentamicin and prednisolone acetate were increased to every 2 h. Three days later, 4+ anterior chamber cells were noted, and his intraocular pressure was 36 mmHg. He received an intravitreal injection of amikacin. Cultures from the repeat anterior chamber tap showed no growth, and universal bacterial Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) was negative.

One month later, the patient’s visual acuity had returned to 20/20, intraocular pressure was 14 mmHg, and he was tapered off all medications and drops except trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. The patient developed another recurrence of iritis and was restarted on prednisolone acetate 1 %. Given the patient’s episodes of recurrent inflammation, he remains on prophylactic dosing of trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and prednisolone acetate 1 % daily. The patient was last seen 11 months after his initial presentation and was doing well with visual acuity 20/20 and on maintenance doses of daily 1 % prednisolone acetate and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole three times a week. The patient has developed heterochromia as a result of his Listeria endophthalmitis due to shedding of iris pigment in the infected eye (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4
figure 4

Photos of the right and left eyes show the development of iris heterochromia due to shedding of iris pigment in the right eye, the infected eye


Despite adequate antibiotic treatment, numerous case reports show poor visual acuity outcomes following L. monocytogenes endophthalmitis. Most patients have final vision worse than 20/100, and one case resulted in phthisis [2, 6, 8, 1116]. As with all cases of endophthalmitis, prompt intravitreal antibiotics is the key factor for a good visual outcome [9]. At our institution, bacterial endophthalmitis is empirically treated with intravitreal vancomycin and ceftazidime. However, L. monocytogenes has variable resistance to both of these agents.

Due to exceedingly rare prevalence of L. monocytogenes endophthalmitis, it is not high on most differentials, and diagnosis is made only after culture. This can delay proper antibiotic coverage, thereby allowing a sizeable inflammatory response to mount. Therefore, in the setting of a hypopyon—in particular a dark hypopyon—with high intraocular pressure, Listeria should be considered and appropriate antibiotics administered. Given Listeria endophthalmitis is most commonly endogenous, systemic antibiotics are an important complement to intravitreal antibiotics.

It is unclear if the patient’s recurrent episodes of inflammation represent repeated infection. Follow-up culture and universal PCR were negative suggesting this may be recurrent inflammation alone. Recurrences of systemic L. monocytogenes infections have been documented in adult patients, and recurrence of L. monocytogenes infections in the pediatric population has been linked to immune system deficiencies [1721]. There have not been any previous reports of recurrent L. monocytogenes endophthalmitis in the literature.

In this patient, the majority of the inflammatory response was localized to the anterior chamber. After proper antibiotic therapy and oral steroids, the patient had a persistent, large, and dense hypopyon that was not resolving despite clearing of anterior chamber cells. In addition, the hypopyon was causing progressive corneal edema due to the presence of inflammatory mediators in the hypopyon. This led to the decision to pursue anterior chamber washout to prevent further corneal damage.

Ocampo et al. treated recalcitrant anterior segment inflammation in sarcoid uveitis patients with surgical removal of iris granulomas, applying similar logic used to justify vitrectomy in chronic uveitis. By removing immune cells and cytokines, one can halt the cycle of ongoing inflammation and prevent further damage to native structures [22]. Our patient’s vision improved dramatically following anterior chamber washout, and the cornea cleared shortly thereafter. It is our observation from this case and review of the literature that when a robust inflammatory response persists after the initial infectious trigger has been adequately treated, surgical removal of the inflammatory milieu may be indicated.

This case exemplifies the importance of a wide differential diagnosis when approaching endophthalmitis. In endogenous cases, there is a range of potential culprit organisms, as in this case, that may not be responsive to empiric therapy [7]. Patients should be followed closely until a therapeutic response is evident. Continued follow-up even after adequate treatment is equally important in order to promptly treat recurrent inflammation or infection.


The patient has given his consent for publication.



intraocular pressurePolymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)


  1. Aureli P, Fiorucci GC, Caroli D, Marchiaro G, Novara O, Leone L, Salmaso S (2000) An outbreak of febrile gastroenteritis associated with corn contaminated by Listeria monocytogenes. N Engl J Med 342(17):1236–41. doi:10.1056/NEJM200004273421702

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Betriu C, Fuentemilla S, Méndez R, Picazo JJ, García-Sánchez J (2001) Endophthalmitis caused by Listeria monocytogenes. J Clin Microbiol 39(7):2742–4. doi:10.1128/JCM.39.7.2742-2744.2001

    Article  PubMed Central  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Schuchat A, Swaminathan B, Broome CV (1991) Epidemiology of human listeriosis. Clin Microbiol Rev 4(2):169–83

    PubMed Central  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Altaie R, Fahy GT, Cormican M (2006) Failure of Listeria monocytogenes keratitis to respond to topical ofloxacin. Cornea 25(7):849–50. doi:10.1097/01.ico.0000230251.19847.3a

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Tay E, Rajan M, Tuft S (2008) Listeria monocytogenes sclerokeratitis: a case report and literature review. Cornea 27(8):947–9. doi:10.1097/ICO.0b013e31816c4078

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Eliott D, O’Brien TP, Green WR, Jampel HD, Goldberg MF (1992) Elevated intraocular pressure, pigment dispersion and dark hypopyon in endogenous endophthalmitis from Listeria monocytogenes. Surv Ophthalmol 37(2):117–24

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Jackson TL, Eykyn SJ, Graham EM, Stanford MR (2003) Endogenous bacterial endophthalmitis: a 17-year prospective series and review of 267 reported cases. Surv Ophthalmol 48(4):403–23

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Shoughy SS, Tabbara KF (2014) Listeria monocytogenes endophthalmitis following keratoconjunctivitis. Clin Ophthalmol 8:301–4. doi:10.2147/OPTH.S55710

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. Deramo VA, Shah GK, Garden M, Maguire JI (1999) Good visual outcome after Listeria monocytogenes endogenous endophthalmitis. Retina 19(6):566–8

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Hueber A, Welsandt G, Grajewski RS, Roters S (2010) Fulminant endogenous anterior uveitis due to Listeria monocytogenes. Case Rep Ophthalmol 1(2):63–5. doi:10.1159/000321127

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Bagnarello AG, Berlin AJ, Weinstein AJ, McHenry MC, O’Connor PS (1977) Listeria monocytogenes endophthalmitis. Arch Ophthalmol 95(6):1004–5

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Ballen PH, Loffredo FR, Painter B (1979) Listeria endophthalmitis. Arch Ophthalmol 97(1):101–2

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Heidemann DG, Trese M, Murphy SF, Bradford D, Lewis M, Dunn SP (1990) Endogenous Listeria monocytogenes endophthalmitis presenting as keratouveitis. Cornea 9(2):179–80

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Ibraheem M, Vance S, Jackson KA, Ettestad P, Smelser C, Silk B (2013) Vision loss following intraocular listeriosis associated with contaminated cantaloupe. Case Rep Ophthalmol 4(2):7–11. doi:10.1159/000351858

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Alkatan HM, Al-Dhibi HA, Edward DP, Al-Rajhi AA (2014) Pigmented hypopyon in association with Listeria monocytogenes endophthalmitis: an interesting case report following refractive surgery procedure with literature review. Middle East Afr J Ophthalmol 21(1):40–3. doi:10.4103/0974-9233.124090

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Nigrin J, Tyrrell DL, Jackson FL, Ombres SR, Morgan RA (1977) Listeria monocytogenes endophthalmitis in an immune-suppressed host. Can Med Assoc J 116(12):1378–82

    PubMed Central  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. Rohde H, Horstkotte MA, Loeper S, Aberle J, Jenicke L, Lampidis R, Mack D (2004) Recurrent Listeria monocytogenes aortic graft infection: confirmation of relapse by molecular subtyping. Diagn Microbiol Infect Dis 48(1):63–7. doi:10.1016/j.diagmicrobio.2003.08.003

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. Gauto AR, Cone LA, Woodard DR, Mahler RJ, Lynch RD, Stoltzman DH (1992) Arterial infections due to Listeria monocytogenes: report of four cases and review of world literature. Clin Infect Dis 14(1):23–8

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. Heikkinen L, Valtonen M, Lepäntalo M, Saimanen E, Järvinen A (1999) Infrarenal endoluminal bifurcated stent graft infected with Listeria monocytogenes. J Vasc Surg 29(3):554–6

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Georgeson GD, Szony BJ, Streitman K, Kovács A, Kovács L, László A (2001) Natural killer cell cytotoxicity is deficient in newborns with sepsis and recurrent infections. Eur J Pediatr 160(8):478–82

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Roesler J, Kofink B, Wendisch J, Heyden S, Paul D, Friedrich W, Casanova JL, Leupold W, Gahr M, Rösen-Wolff A (1999) Listeria monocytogenes and recurrent mycobacterial infections in a child with complete interferon-gamma-receptor (IFNgammaR1) deficiency: mutational analysis and evaluation of therapeutic options. Exp Hematol 27(9):1368–74

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. Ocampo VV, Foster CS, Baltatzis S (2001) Surgical excision of iris nodules in the management of sarcoid uveitis. Ophthalmology 108(7):1296–9

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


None besides the authors listed.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Careen Y. Lowder.

Additional information

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

ACW and ALL were involved in the management of the patient and drafted the manuscript. SKS and CYL were involved in the management of the patient and helped draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Authors’ information

ACW is an ophthalmology resident at the Cleveland Clinic. ALL completed vitreoretinal surgery fellowship and is now a uveitis fellow at the Cleveland Clinic. SKS is a vitreoretinal surgery and uveitis specialist at the Cleveland Clinic. CYL is a uveitis specialist at the Cleveland Clinic and Vice-President of the IUSG.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Weber, A.C., Levison, A.L., Srivastava, S.K. et al. A case of Listeria monocytogenes endophthalmitis with recurrent inflammation and novel management. J Ophthal Inflamm Infect 5, 28 (2015).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: