Molecular Characterization of Serratia marcescens Strain Isolated from Yellow Mealworms, Tenebrio molitor, in The Netherlands

Teresita Bello Gonzalez*, Betty van Gelderen, Frank Harders, Rianka Vloet, Michal Voorbergen-Laarman, Bart de Ruiter, Olga Haenen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Insect culture has developed rapidly worldwide; it faces important security and safety control issues, including animal infections and disease development. In the Netherlands, in 2021, a ~30% mortality of mealworms, Tenebrio molitor, occurred at one farm, where over-humid sites in the substrate were observed. Bacterial cultures from both the external and internal partsof fry and larger mealworms were identified by MALDI-TOF to predominantly Serratia marcescens, Staphylococcus xylosus and Staphylococus saprofyticus. Due to the important role of S. marcescens as a potential zoonotic bacterium, we performed a molecular characterization of the isolated strain. Genomic analysis showed a multidrug-resistant S. marcescens isolate carrying a tet (41), aac (6′)-Ic, and blaSST-1 chromosomal class C beta-lactamase-resistantgenes, all located on the chromosome. Additionally, several virulence genes were identified. The phylogenetic tree revealed that the S. marcescens strain from this study was similar to other S. marcescens strains from different ecological niches. Although the entomopathogenic activity was not confirmed, this case demonstrates that T. molitor can act as a reservoir and as an alternative path for exposing clinically important antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can affect animals and humans. It underlines the need to keep management factors optimal, before insects and their products enter the feed and food chain.
Original languageEnglish
Article number770
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2023


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