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Interesting Indoor Microbe of the day: Serratia marcescens

After reading this story today about Serratia marcescens I thought it would be interesting to have the occasional post highlighting a particular organism found in the built environment.  Sort of like a baseball card collection of microbes.

Name:  Serratia marcescens

Location: commonly found in showers, toilets, tiles etc.  Fairly ubiquitous in damp environments.

Description: rod-shaped, Gram-negative bacteria.  Often seen as a pink and slimy film on surfaces. Produces large amounts of red pigment.

Health concerns:  Relatively low health risk, but does cause nosocomial infections in hospitals.  Can also cause corneal infections by virtue of becoming established in contact lens cases.  Was responsible for a lethal outbreak in Alabama hospitals this year, via IV nutritional solution.  The organism is extremely resistant to soaps and detergents, and in fact most hospital infections occur via contaminated cleaning solutions.

Cool facts:  The production of red pigment by Serratia is thought to be responsible for the miraculous bleeding of damp statues in the Middle Ages.  In the 1950’s the U.S. military released balloons containing (supposedly harmless) Serratia marcescens over San Francisco in order to simulate a bio-weapons attack.   A number of people subsequently acquired serious infections and one patient died.  This organisms also can destroy saltwater corals.

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David Coil

David Coil is a Project Scientist in the lab of Jonathan Eisen at UC Davis. David works at the intersection between research, education, and outreach in the areas of the microbiology of the built environment, microbial ecology, and bacterial genomics. Twitter

2 thoughts on “Interesting Indoor Microbe of the day: Serratia marcescens

  1. i had plastic surgery may 2015. I felt awful and feverish my first day home. I kept calling surgeon of the pain I wan in and parts of my incisions were not healing but spreading. I had two visits with him between June 05 and June 18 . By June 30i was hospitalized with septic poison , near death , both breast and been earn through, my implants were visible and the incision line across my bikini top had holes with the depth and length of roomies. Deep swabs wishing breasts and lower abdomen …… SERRATIA MARCESCENS…… I can’t even begin to share my horror story of just how tricky and aggressive this bacteria is in a human body. It is suspected I contracted this bacteria during invasive surgery. It has been 14 months, every once in a while I still get an open oozing wound, and the damage to breast nerve and tissue causing a lot of pain. I have already had a partial mastectomy. It seems not one Dr, in my area knows anything about this. I have finally after all this time am being referred to an Internest, maybe someone who can finally explain what this may have done to my insides. I’ve read many things on Internet of this bacteria , mostly scientists reports and words I do not understand. Would you be willing to respond to this email and send me information to help me.

    Sincerely,

    A DESPERATE WOMAN DEENA

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