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Volume 25, Number 11—November 2019
Etymologia

Etymologia: Serratia marcescens

Gianluca NazzaroComments to Author 
Author affiliation: Foundation Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Milan, Italy

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Serratia marcescens [sǝ-ra′-she-ǝ mar-ces′-cens]

Figure

Thumbnail of Culture plate containing the bacterium Serratia marcescens. The colonies are red because of a pigment (prodigiosin) produced by this organism. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1985.

Figure. Culture plate containing the bacterium Serratia marcescens. The colonies are red because of a pigment (prodigiosin) produced by this organism. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1985.

Serratia marcescens, which can cause nosocomial outbreaks,and urinary tract and wound infections, is abundant in damp environments (Figure). It can be easily found in bathrooms, including shower corners and basins, where it appears as a pink–orange–red discoloration, due to the pigment known as prodigiosin. Serratia was discovered in Italy in 1819 when it affected polenta in a small town near Padua.

Bartolomeo Bizio, a Venetian pharmacist, studied the mode of transmission of the red substance and named this microorganism Serratia in honor of Serafino Serrati, who ran the first steamboat on the Arno River in 1795, anticipating the discovery of Robert Fulton in 1807. The word marcescens was chosen from Latin for the species name meaning to decay, reflecting the rapid deterioration of the pigment. Serratia marcescens was later renamed Monas prodigiosus in 1846, then Bacillus prodigiosus, before the original name was restored in the 1920s in recognition of the work of Bizio.

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References

  1. Nazzaro  G, Veraldi  S. Serratia marcescens: an Italian story. Int J Dermatol. 2017;56:7956. DOIPubMed
  2. Sehdev  PS, Donnenberg  MS. Arcanum: the 19th-century Italian pharmacist pictured here was the first to characterize what are now known to be bacteria of the genus Serratia. Clin Infect Dis. 1999;29:770925.
  3. Veraldi  S, Nazzaro  G. Skin ulcers caused by Serratia marcescens: three cases and a review of the literature. Eur J Dermatol. 2016;26:3736. DOI

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Figure

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Cite This Article

DOI: 10.3201/eid2511.et2511

Original Publication Date: 9/27/2019

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Table of Contents – Volume 25, Number 11—November 2019

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Gianluca Nazzaro, Dermatology Unit, Foundation Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Via Pace 9, 20122 Milan, Italy

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Page created: October 15, 2019
Page updated: October 15, 2019
Page reviewed: October 15, 2019
The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.
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