Enterobacteriaceae Family: Common Characteristics

Last updated on June 21st, 2021

Enterobacteriaceae family contains a large number of genera that are biochemically and genetically related to one another. Many of the traditional or familiar bacteria are found in this family e.g. Escherichia, Shigella, Salmonella, Enterobacter, Proteus, Yersinia etc.

LF and NLF colonies in MacConkey Agar
LF and NLF colonies in MacConkey Agar

Common characteristics of family Enterobacteriaceae are:

  • They are gram-negative, short rods
  • They are non-sporulating, facultative anaerobes
  • These organisms have simple nutritional requirements and MacConkey agar is used to isolate and differentiate  organisms of the Enterobacteriaceae family (pink-colored colonies of lactose fermenter-coliforms and pale-colored colonies of the non-lactose fermenter)
  • Motility if present is by means of peritrichous (lateral) flagella, except Shigella and Klebsiella which are non-motile.
  • They are catalase-positive
  • Cytochrome C oxidase negative (enteric always negative-separates enterics from oxidase-positive bacteria of genera Pseudomonas, Aeromonas, Vibrio, Alcaligenes, Achromobacter, Flavobacterium, Cardiobacterium which may have similar morphology.)
  • Usually reduces Nitrate to Nitrite (distinguishes enteric bacteria from bacteria that reduce nitrate to Nitrogen gas, such as Pseudomonas and many other oxidase-positive bacteria).
  • Produces acid from glucose; ability to ferment lactose- distinguishes enteric from obligately aerobic bacteria.
  • Sodium neither required nor stimulatory for the growth
  • Cell contains a characteristic antigen, called the enterobacterial common antigen.
Antigens of Enterobacteriaceae family
Antigens of Enterobacteriaceae family

Antigens of Enterobacteriaceae are:

  1. O:Outer membrane
  2. H: Flagella
  3. K: Capsule
  4. Vi: Capsule of Salmonella

List of lactose fermenter and non-lactose fermenter

Lactose fermenters: (CEEK)

  1. Citrobacter
  2. Escherichia
  3. Enterobacter
  4. Klebsiella
Mnemonic Lactose Fermenter and NLF

Non lactose fermenter (ShYPS)

  1. Shigella
  2. Yersinia
  3. Proteus
  4. Salmonella

Tests for identification of members of Enterobacteriaceae family 

Members of the Enterobacteriaceae family are identified based on their biochemical properties. Commonly used biochemical tests to identify them are (Please click on the test name to know more about that particular test);

  1. Citrate utilization Test
  2. Indole Test
  3. Motility Test
  4. Methyl Red (MR) Test
  5. Voges–Proskauer (VP) Test
  6. Triple Sugar Iron (TSI) Agar Test
  7. Urease Test

Summary of biochemical reactions of Enterobacteriaceae

 TSIIndoleMRVPCitrateUreaseMotility
E.coliA/A, Gas+ve+ve-ve-ve-veMotile
Citrobacter freundiiA/A or K/A, Gas, H2S+ve+ve+ve-ve-veMotile
Klebsiella pneumoniaeA/A, Gas (++), H2S-ve-ve+ve+ve+veNon-motile
Enterobacter cloacaeA/A, Gas (++)-ve-ve+ve+ve+veMotile
Salmonella Typhik/A, H2S (weak)-ve+ve-ve+ve-veMotile
Shigella boydiiK/A, No Gas, No H2S-ve+ve-ve-ve-veNon-motile
Proteus mirabilisK/A, Gas, H2S-ve+ve-ve+ve+veMotile (swarming)

Antimicrobial Resistance

Carbapenem-resistant or carbapenamase-producing Enterobacteriaceae have been reported worldwide and are major threats for global well being. Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) are usually resistant to all β-lactam agents as well as most other classes of antimicrobial agents, which limits the available treatment options.

Carbapenem resistance in Enterobacteriaceae occurs when an isolate acquires a carbapenemase or when
an isolate produces an extended-spectrum cephalosporinase, such as an AmpC-type β-lactamase, in
combination with porin loss. Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (KPC) is one of the most common mechanism of carbapenem resistance.

Modified Hodge Test (MHT) is one of the recommended test for the detection of carbapenemase production.

About Acharya Tankeshwar 473 Articles
Hello, thank you for visiting my blog. I am Tankeshwar Acharya. Blogging is my passion. I am working as an Asst. Professor and Microbiologist at Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Patan Academy of Health Sciences, Nepal. If you want me to write about any posts that you found confusing/difficult, please mention in the comments below.