Despite the high standards of cleanliness and hygiene in the food industry, bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes can still be found in the food processing environment. In a study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a team of researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna has now shown that certain Listeria strains – figuratively speaking – take refuge on an island. An “islet” of two genes located in one area of the genome increases the bacteria’s survival under alkaline and oxidative stress conditions. The researchers were able to identify the two genes as a functional unit termed a “stress survival islet”. Understanding this genetic “lifesaver” can help develop new strategies for food safety.