Serratia marcescens: Introduction, Identification Features, and Serratia Footages

Introduction of Serratia marcescens

Serratia is a member of the family, Enterobacteriaceae and it is a Gram-negative, facultatively anaerobic, rod-shaped lacking spore and capsule bacterium. This is a Gram-negative rod/ bacilli that thrive in moist environments. It frequently contaminates solutions and hospital equipment and the human reservoirs are the urinary and respiratory tracts as well as the gastrointestinal tract of children. The genus is named after Serafino Serrati, an Italian physicist. In 1819, Bartolomeo Bizio, a pharmacist from Padua, Italy, discovered and named Serratia marcescens when he identified the bacterium as the cause of a miraculous bloody discoloration in a cornmeal mush called polenta. Bizio named Serratia in honor of an Italian physicist named Serrati, who invented the steamboat, and Bizio chose marcescens (from the Latin word for decaying) because the bloody pigment was found to deteriorate quickly.

Serratia marcescens colony morphology on nutrient agar, biochemical reactions and antibiogram
Fig. Serratia marcescens colony morphology on nutrient agar, biochemical reactions, and antibiogram

Identification Features of Serratia marcescens

Basic FeaturesProperties
1. Gram StainingGram-Negative Rods (GNRs)
2. SporeNon-Sporing
3. CapsuleNon-Capsulated
4. MotilityMotile
5. PigmentPositive (Prodigiosin)
6. Growth in potassium cyanide (KCN) mediumPositive
7. Catalase testPositive
8. Oxidase testNegative
9. Nitrate reduction testPositive
10. MR (Methyl Red) testNegative
11. VP (Voges- Proskauer) assayPositive 
12. OF (Oxidative-Fermentative) testFermentative\facultative anaerobe
13. Gas formationVariable
14. H2S productionNegative
15. Indole formationNegative
16. Urease/urea hydrolysis testPositive
17. Citrate/citrate utilizationPositive
18. DNase testPositive
19. Glucose fermentationPositive 
20. Maltose fermentationPositive
21. Lactose fermentationNegative
22. Sucrose fermentationPositive
23. Xylose fermentationNegative
24. Mannitol fermentationPositive
25. Acetate UtilizationVariable
26. ONPG (β-galactosidase)Positive
27. Phenylalanine Deaminase (PDA)/PPA TestNegative
28. Lipase testPositive
29. Esculin Hydrolysis testPositive
30. Lysine Decarboxylase TestPositive
31. Ornithine Decarboxylase TestPositive
32. Arginine Dihydrolase TestNegative
Table: Identification Features of Serratia marcescens

S. marcescens Footages

Serratia marcescens colony morphology on MacConkey agar

Serratia marcescens colony morphology on MacConkey agar
Fig. S. marcescens colony morphology on MacConkey agar

Prodigiosin pigment of Serratia marcescens on Muller-Hinton agar

Prodigiosin pigment of Serratia marcescens on Muller-Hinton agar
Fig. Prodigiosin pigment of S. marcescens on Muller-Hinton agar

Pink colony of S. marcescens on nutrient agar

Pink colony of Serratia marcescens on nutrient agar
Fig. Pink colony of S. marcescens on nutrient agar

Gram negative rods (GNRs) of Serratia in Gram staining of culture

Gram negative rods (GNRs) of Serratia marcescens in Gram staining of culture
Fig. Gram-negative rods (GNRs) of S. marcescens in Gram staining of culture

Serratia marcescens biochemical tests

Serratia marcescens biochemical tests
Fig. S. marcescens biochemical tests in TSI, SIM, Urea, and Citrate medium

Serratia marcescens growth on MHA and nutrient agar at 37°C and room temperature (25°C) respectively

Serratia marcescens growth on MHA and nutrient agar at 37°C and room temperature (25°C) respectively
Fig. Serratia marcescens growth on MHA and nutrient agar at 37°C (no pigment expression) and room temperature (25°C-expression of pigment, Prodigiosin and thus pink in color) respectively

Further Readings

  • Cowan & Steel’s Manual for identification of Medical Bacteria. Editors: G.I. Barron & R.K. Felthani, 3rd ed 1993, Publisher Cambridge University Press.
  • Bailey & Scott’s Diagnostic Microbiology. Editors: Bettey A. Forbes, Daniel F. Sahm & Alice S. Weissfeld, 12th ed 2007, Publisher Elsevier.
  • Mackie and Mc Cartney Practical Medical Microbiology. Editors: J.G. Colle, A.G. Fraser, B.P. Marmion, A. Simmous, 4th ed, Publisher Churchill Living Stone, New York, Melborne, Sans Franscisco 1996.
  • Textbook of Diagnostic Microbiology. Editors: Connie R. Mahon, Donald G. Lehman & George Manuselis, 3rd edition2007, Publisher Elsevier.

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