Serratia marcescens is a species of bacteria that is known to be a highly opportunistic pathogen that is commonly involved in hospital acquired infections. Serratia marcescens is commonly found in the environment, particularly in consistently damp conditions where the bacteria grow rapidly.
S. marcescens can frequently be seen on tile and shower corners or at the water line of a toilet bowl where it appears as a pink or orange filmy residue. Seldom used toilets are actually the ideal breeding ground for s. marcescens because of the standing water in the bowl. Aside from shower tiles and toilets, the s. marcescens bacteria can also usually be found in soil and in human and animal feces.Serratia Marcescens Infections
At one point in time, serratia marcescens was believed to be a completely harmless organism. Recently, however, scientific research has shown that s. marcescens can be a harmful bacterium. Serratia marcescens is now known to be a common cause of human infections in the respiratory tract, digestive tract, and in wound site infection.
Serratia marcescens is a common cause of so-called hospital acquired infections in both patients and healthcare workers. S. marcescens is believed to be responsible for approximately 2% of all documented cases of hospital acquired infection. This is because s. marcescens tends to grow rapidly on medical equipment and facilities (e.g., showers, toilets, etc.) found in hospitals.
S. marcescens bacteria is known to cause a variety of different types of human infections, including: urinary tract infections (UTIs), respiratory tract infections, conjunctivitis, tear duct infections, and keratitis. Although extremely rare, it can also cause pneumonia and meningitis.Minimizing the Risk of Serratia Marcescens Infection
Once s. marcescens has established itself on a surface, completely eliminating it can be very difficult. Total eradication of the bacteria can be only accomplished with a bleach-based disinfectant or cleaner. The best methods for controlling the development and spread of s. marcescens include:
- Regular Cleaning: through and regular cleaning of all surfaces with a bleach based cleaner or disinfectant is the most effective prevention tool. Kitchen and bathroom surfaces and other areas exposed to water are higher risk areas that require more frequent cleaning.
- Disinfecting & Rinsing: on surfaces where the pink slime associated with s. marcescens has previously developed, full disinfection and rinsing may be required. Chlorine bleach products are required to properly disinfect for s. marcescens. Disinfectants should remain on the surface for 20 minutes before being completely rinsed away with fresh water.
- Avoid Scratching Surfaces: when cleaning for s. marcescens take precautions to avoid scratching any surfaces with abrasives. Scratches in a smooth surface can create an ideal breeding ground for s. marcescens.
Treatment options for s. marcescens related infections involve antibiotic medication. The serratia marcescens bacterium is known to be highly resistant to most first-generation antibiotics like penicillin. This includes commonly used medications such as amoxicillin, ampicillin, and a number of other cephalosporin medications. This resistance to antibiotic medications has made s. marcescens infections somewhat difficult to treat effectively.
The difficulty of treating infections caused by s. marcescens is one of the reasons why prevention is often considered to be so important. This is particularly true in a hospital setting where s. marcescens is known to be a problem. Hospitals have an obligation to ensure proper cleaning and disinfecting of equipment and facilities to prevent s. marcescens from developing and infecting patients.Serratia Marcescens Infection and Medical Malpractice
When a hospital acquired infection is related to serratia marcescens, it is most likely the result of negligent practices at the hospital such as failures to properly clean surfaces on a regular basis. Hospital patients who develop infections from s. marcescens at the hospital may be entitled to bring a hospital malpractice lawsuit and get financial compensation for their injuries.Contact Miller & Zois About Hospital Malpractice