Genus Yersinia

By: Jvo Siegrist, Microbiology Focus Edition 2.3

Jvo Siegrist, Product Manager Microbiology

Detection, identification, differentiation and cultivation of Yersinia species

Yersinia is a rod shaped and facultative anaerobic Gram-negative bacteria belonging to the family of Enterobacteriaceae. It has a fermentative metabolism, is oxidase-negative, mannitolpositive, glucose-positive and lactose negative. On the Bismuth sulfite Agar (95388) Yersinia can be differentiated from Salmonella because it is not able to produce hydrogen sulphide. It is a psychrophilic organism, surviving and proliferating at low temperatures of 0-4 °C (e.g., on food products in a refrigerator). Some Yersinia species are also relatively highly heat resistant. However, they can be quite easily inactivated by oxidizing agents such as hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate.

Pigs, rodents, rabbits, sheep, cattle, horses, dogs, and cats are the natural sources of Yersinia. At the moment, most human illness cases caused by Yersinia originate from Y. enterocolitica. This organism is the cause of yersiniosis, an infectious disease with symptoms like fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Other clinically important species of this genus are Y. pseudotuberculosis (symptoms similar to Y. enterocolitica except in most cases no diarrhea is seen) and Y. pestis (organism responsible for the bubonic plague). Most infections are acquired through contaminated food, like raw or undercooked pork products, seafood, vegetables, unpasteurized milk or untreated water. However, infections may also occur after contact with infected animals or faeces, or through transmission by fleas.

The bacteria received its name from A. E. J. Yersin, a Swiss microbiologist, who discovered the Yersinia pestis bacterium in 1894 in Hong Kong.

Table 1 Some differentiation of the important Yersinia species C

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