A Serratia marcescens biotyping system using eight carbon sources (benzoate, DL-carnitine, m-erythritol, 3-hydroxybenzoate, 4-hydroxybenzoate, lactose, D-quinate, and trigonelline), a tetrathionate reduction test, production of prodigiosin, and horse blood hemolysis was derived from a recent numerical taxonomic study (Grimont et al., J. Gen. Microbiol. 98:39-66, 1977). A total of 98.6% of 2,210 isolates from various sources could be assigned to 1 of 19 biotypes. Distribution and spread of 1,088 S. marcescens isolates throughout 13 clinical departments of Pellegrin Hospital (Bordeaux, France) were studied from 1968 through 1975. Except for one that colonized the intestinal tract of newborns, the six pigmented biotypes were seldom isolated. Each of the 13 nonpigmented biotypes showed a particular pattern of distribution and spread. The usefulness of S. marcescens biotyping was shown by relating several isolates recovered from patients and their inanimate environment and by pointing out the possible existence of infections or colonizations by two unrelated biotypes. S. marcescens strains isolated from the natural environment (water) are usually pigmented, and their biotypes are uncommon in hospitals. Biotyping can, therefore, be of help in epidemiological and ecological surveys
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