Chemical and serological analysis has revealed that many of the 29 O serotype reference strains of Serratia marcescens contain both neutral and acidic polysaccharides which correspond to LPS O antigens and capsular K antigens, respectively. New O and K antigen typing schemes have therefore been devised, based on the known chemical structures of the surface polysaccharides of the organism. These schemes were designed to allow the specific detection of these antigens on unknown strains using ELISAs. O antigens were detected using whole cells cultured in broth then autoclaved to remove capsular material, while K antigens were detected using formolized whole cells which had been cultured on glycerol agar to enhance capsule production. After testing with the 29 reference strains as well as 423 distinct clinical strains, it was apparent that different aspects of chemical structure were associated with different degrees of serological reactivity and the typing schemes were modified further to accommodate this. In general, the O antigen repeating unit structures were chemically simple with di-or trisaccharide backbones. Serological specificity was often provided solely by the presence or absence of an -acetyl substituent, or a change in the linkage between two sugar residues. Five of the O serotypes in the new scheme were represented by 12 of the 29 reference strains, while three reference strains lacked O antigens altogether, resulting in the elimination of 10 of the original O types. In contrast, the K antigen repeating unit structures were more complex and chemically diverse, having at least four sugar residues. Three K types were each seen in two reference strains while 12 of the 29 reference strains were acapsular. Thus, the resulting schemes contain 19 O types and 14 K types and allow the definitive serotype identification of .


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