Serratia marcescens

RANK: Species

TAXONOMY: Bacteria -> Proteobacteria -> Gammaproteobacteria -> Enterobacteriales -> Enterobacteriaceae -> Serratia -> Serratia marcescens


Serratia marcescens is a species of rod-shaped Gram negative bacterium in the family Enterobacteriaceae. A human pathogen, S. marcescens is involved in hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), particularly catheter-associated bacteremia, urinary tract infections and wound infections, and is responsible for 1.4% of HAI cases in the United States. It is commonly found in the respiratory and urinary tracts of hospitalized adults and in the gastrointestinal system of children. Due to its abundant presence in the environment, and its preference for damp conditions, S. marcescens is commonly found growing in bathrooms (especially on tile grout, shower corners, toilet water line, and basin), where it manifests as a pink, pink-orange, or orange discoloration and slimy film feeding off phosphorus-containing materials or fatty substances such as soap and shampoo residue.

Once established, complete eradication of the organism is often difficult, but can be accomplished by application of a bleach-based disinfectant. Rinsing and drying surfaces after use can also prevent the establishment of the bacterium by removing its food source and making the environment less hospitable.

S. marcescens may also be found in environments such as dirt, supposedly "sterile" places, and the subgingival biofilm of teeth. Due to this, and because S. marcescens produces a reddish-orange tripyrrole pigment called prodigiosin, it may cause staining of the teeth. The biochemical pathway for the production of prodigiosin by S. marcescens is unknown except for the final two steps. In these steps, a monopyrrole and a bipyrrole undergo a condensation reaction by way of an enzyme to form prodigiosin. Serratia marcescens is lysine decarboxylase (LDC) positive.

S. marcescens is a motile organism and can grow in temperatures ranging from 5–40°C and in pH levels ranging from 5 to 9. It is differentiated from other Gram-negative bacteria by its ability to perform casein hydrolysis, which allows it to produce extracellular metalloproteinases which are believed to function in cell-to-extracellular matrix interactions. S. marcescens also exhibits tryptophan and citrate degradation. One of the end products of tryptophan degradation is pyruvic acid, which is then incorporated into different metabolic processes of S. marcescens. A final product of citrate degradation is carbon. Thus, S. marcescens can rely on citrate as a carbon source. In identifying the organism, one may also perform a methyl red test, which determines if a microorganism performs mixed-acid fermentation. S. marcescens results in a negative test. Another determination of S. marcescens is its capability to produce lactic acid by oxidative and fermentative metabolism. Therefore, it is said that S. marcescens is lactic acid O/F+.

This species has been identified as a resident in the human gastrointestinal tract based on the phylogenetic framework of its small subunit ribosomal RNA gene sequences.[PMC 4262072]

Gut associated
Type species