Proteus vulgaris

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1. Classification

a. Higher order taxa

Domain; Phylum; Class; Order; Family; Genus Include this section if your Wiki page focuses on a specific taxon/group of organisms Domain (Bacteria); Phylum (Proteobacteria); Class (Gammaproteobacteria); Order (Enterobacterales); Family (Morganellaceae); Genus (Proteus) Species (Vulgaris)

2. Description and significance

Proteus vulgaris is one of five bacterial species within the genus Proteus, and one of three species within the genus that are opportunistic pathogens (1). P. vulgaris is a rod-shaped, Gram negative bacterium between 1-3 microns in size, and is extremely motile, utilizing peritrichous flagella as its source of motility (2). All members of the genus Proteus are known to be saprophytes, an organism that resides in dead or decaying organic matter, mainly in fecal matter and intestinal tracts of humans and animals (1, 3). P. vulgaris is relevant in many fields of research, due to its pathogenic capabilities, as well as its capacity for antibiotic resistance (4, 5, 6). It has been observed in the digestive tracts of various livestock, including cattle, bovines, and carp, making the bacterium a danger to humans by means of food contamination (5, 7, 8). P. vulgaris is also known to cause numerous types of nosocomial infections, including those of the urinary tract, burns, and other exposed wounds, and can be associated with various types of brain abscesses (9, 10, 11). P. vulgaris may also have positive applications, such as biofuel production (12), aromatic contribution to cheese ripening (13), and plant growth promotion (14), but further research is needed to prove the effectiveness and validity of these applications.

3. Genome structure

The genome of P. vulgaris has 3.97 million base pairs and 3,660 genes. It is circular in structure, and contains 3,513 proteins, 14 rRNa proteins, 77 tRNA proteins, and 53 pseudogenes (15). Bacteria from the genus Proteus can be differentiated on the basis of O-antigen variability, the serospecificity of the lipopolysaccharide can decipher between strains of Proteus rods divided into the groups: P. mirabilis, P. vulgaris, P. penneri, P. hauseri, and P. myxofaciens (16). The chemical structure of the sugar part of the lipopolysaccharide may play a role in enhancing pathogenicity (16).

4. Cell structure

P. vulgaris is a rod-shaped, chemoorganotrophic, Gram-negative bacteria between 1 and 3 microns in size (2). It is motile by peritrichous flagella, and does not have capsules or spores (2). A key characteristic of genus Proteus is swarming ability, and a simple Dienes test is used to differentiate between strains (17). P. vulgaris is facultatively anaerobic and has both a respiratory and fermentative type metabolism (3). It is capable of phenylalanine deaminase and urease production, and glucose, maltose, and sucrose fermentation (18, 19). One study researching alternative methods for urinalysis found that urea levels could be detected using electrochemical signaling from redox reactions that take place on the surface membrane, specifically the conversion of urea to ammonia (8). When comparing Genus Proteus, a key tool to decipher P. vulgaris from other species in the genus is that P. vulgaris is indole-positive using an spot indole test using dimethylaminocinnamaldehyde reagent (20) .

5. Ecology


Many wild and domestic animals can be hosts of P. vulgaris bacteria, where they commonly play the role of a parasite (1). In calf bedding samples contaminated with feces, P. vulgaris was the first of its genus to be identified, such that food animals may be a source of P. vulgaris in the human gut (7). Nasal swabs collected from bovines with respiratory illness also had isolated colonies of P. vulgaris showing a possible spread of bacteria through the food chain (5).


P. vulgaris present in water or soil conditions usually indicates fecal pollution, which poses a dangerous health risk when consumed in the form of food or water, such as the occurrence of P. vulgaris in raw shellfish (21). For example, several antibiotic-resistant strains of P. vulgaris were identified in the intestines of shrimp in Turkey. This contamination was linked to hospital and industrial waste (21). Marine sponges that were associated with P. vulgaris were considered to be indicators of fecal contamination (9).

Industry and Commerce

In Nigeria, P. vulgaris was found to be the most active strain degrading crude oil compared to other species. This finding was significant for that area, where oil spills are a significant source of pollution (22). P. vulgaris is tolerant of high concentrations of heavy metals or toxic substances, and can even manipulate these as a source of energy or nutrition (1). In addition, P. vulgaris lipase has been used with a transesterification reaction and sonication conditions to produce biodiesel (12). P. vulgaris is also found on the surface of ripened cheese, and produces high concentrations of flavor compounds from amino acid degradation during the ripening process (13).

7. Pathology

P. vulgaris has been reported to cause urinary tract infections, wound infections, burn infections, bloodstream infections, and respiratory tract infections (1). In one case study, P. vulgaris caused bacteremia, the presence of bacteria in the blood, and brain abscesses with a suspected point of entrance in the digestive tract (9). In the last decade, P. vulgaris has become less sensitive and more resistant to antibiotics, such as levofloxacin, meropenem, and ciprofloxacin, increasing the risk of a sepsis postoperative infection in Gujarat, India (13). P. vulgaris has also been identified as the main microbial pollutant in drinking water of Rajasthan, India (23).

8. Current Research

Recent research has demonstrated a growing list of uses for P. vulgaris in both medical and industrial applications. Specifically, it has been reported that P. vulgaris was used in an electrochemical chip to detect urea levels in synthetic urine (8). Urea levels were found by analyzing the ammonia oxidation reaction that occurs on the membrane of P. vulgaris. A direct correlation between the ammonia oxidation peaks and the urea concentrations in the synthetic urine were shown (8). Since urea levels can signify a number of health concerns, a quick and cost-effective urinalysis using markers such as the biological reaction carried out by P. vulgaris could be applied to point-of-care testing in medical facilities (8). Additionally, P. vulgaris can cause a variety of medical complications such as urinary tract infections and renal stones (24). A recent study found that using copper oxide and silver nanoparticles is effective at inhibiting the growth of P. vulgaris through the release of ions and free radicals that disrupt its enzymatic and DNA activity (24). Recent research has shown that P. vulgaris can be used in industrial settings, for example, to create biodiesel using an engineered lipase from the bacteria and a transesterification reaction triggered by sonication (12) The P. vulgaris lipase was made more thermostable through the introduction of a disulfide bond in the enzyme. The benefits of a biotechnological alternative to biodiesel synthesis such as this includes “lowering environmental concerns and energy consumption” (12).

9. References

(1) Drzewiecka D. 2016. Significance and Roles of Proteus spp. Bacteria in Natural Environments. Microbial Ecology. 72:741–758.

(2) Hardy Diagnostics. Proteus - bacterial genus - microbiology dictionary.

(3) Sun L., et al. 2020. Isolation, identification and pathogenicity of Proteus vulgaris moribund common carp (Cyprinus carpio) farmed in China. Aquaculture. 525: 1-8.

(4) Odonkor, S. T., Addo, K. K. 2018. Prevalence of Multidrug-Resistant Escherichia coli Isolated from Drinking Water Sources. International Journal of Microbiology. 7204013

(5) Wang, Y., Wang, Y., Wu, C., Schwarz, S., Shen, Z., Zhang, W., Zhang, Q., Shen, J.S. 2011. Detection of the staphylococcal multiresistance gene cfr in Proteus vulgaris of food animal origin. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, 66(11):2521-6.

(6) Goswami N., Trivedi H., Goswami A. P., Patel T. and Tripathi C. 2011. Antibiotic sensitivity profile of bacterial pathogens in postoperative wound infections at a tertiary care hospital in Gujarat, India. Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics. 2:3.

(7) Hawkey, P. M., Hawkey, J. L., Penner, A. H., Linton, C. A., Hawkey, L. J.. Crisp, and M. Hinton. 1986. Speciation, serotyping, antimicrobial sensitivity and plasmid content of Proteeae from the environment of calf-rearing units in South West England. The Journal of Hygiene. 97(3): 405–417.

(8) Morales-Cruz M, Solis-Marcano N, Binder C, et. al. 2019. Electrochemical Proteus vulgaris whole cell urea sensor in synthetic urine. Current Research in Biotechnology. 1: 22-27.

(9) Marchiori, C., Tonon, E., Boscolo Rizzo, P., Vaglia, A., Meyding-Lamade, U., Levorato, M., Da Mosto, M. C., Dietz, A. 2003. Brain abscesses after extracranial infections of the head and neck area. HNO. 51(10):813-22.

(10) Keflas E., Castritsi-Catharios J., Miliou H. 2003. Bacteria associated with the sponge Spongia officinalis as indicators of contamination. Ecological Indicators. 2(4): 339-343.

(11) Lee, K., Park S. J., Choi S. J., Park J. Y. 2017. Proteus Vulgaris and Proteus Mirabilis Decrease Candida Albicans Biofilm Formation by Suppressing Morphological Transition to Its Hyphal Form. Yonsei Medical Journal 58(6): 1135-143.

(12) Gupta S., Scott D., Ratna Prabha C., Muthupandian A. 2017. Biodiesel synthesis assisted by ultrasonication using engineered thermo-stable Proteus vulgaris lipase. Fuel. 208: 430-438.

(13) Deetae, P., Spinnler, H. E., Bonnarme, P., Helink, S. 2009. Growth and aroma contribution of Microbacterium foliorum, Proteus vulgaris and Psychrobacter sp. during ripening in a cheese model medium. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 82:169-77.

(14) Bhattacharyya, D., Garladinne, M., Lee, Y. H. 2014. Volatile indole produced by rhizobacterium Proteus vulgaris JBLS202 stimulates growth of Arabidopsis thaliana through auxin, cytokinin, and brassinosteroid pathways. Journal of Plant Growth Regulation. 34:158-168.

(15) National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Proteus vulgaris (ID 10783) - Genome. (16) Zych K., Kolodziejska K., Dominika D., Perepelov A.V., Knirel Y.A., Zgymunt S. 2007. Serological classification and epitope specificity of Proteus vulgaris TG 251 from Proteus serogroup O65. Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis. 55(3): 187-91.

(17) Senior B.W., Larsson P. 1983. A highly discriminatory multi-typing scheme for Proteus mirabilis and Proteus vulgaris. Journal of Medical Microbiology. 16(2): 193-202.

(18) Passmore R., Yudkin J. 1937. The effect of carbohydrates and allied substances on urease production by Proteus vulgaris. Biochemical Journal. 31(2):318-22.

(19) Kim N., Choi Y., Jung S., Kim S. 2000. Effect of initial carbon sources on the performance of microbial fuel cells containing Proteus vulgaris. Biotechnology and Bioengineering. 70(1): 109-14.

(20) Mohr O’Hara, C., Brenner F.W., Miller J.M. 2000. Classification, Identification, and Clinical Significance of Proteus, Providencia, and Morganella. Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 13(4): 534-546.

(21) Matyar F., Kaya A., Dinçer S. 2008. Antibacterial agents and heavy metal resistance in Gram-negative bacteria isolated from seawater, shrimp and sediment in Iskenderun Bay, Turkey. Science of the Total Environment. 407(1): 279-285.

(22) Ibrahim A. L., Ijah U. J. J., Manga S.B., Umar S. 2013. Production and partial characterization of biosurfactant produced by crude oil degrading bacteria. International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation. 81: 28-34.

(23) Suthar S., Chhimpa V., Singh S. 2009. Bacterial contamination in drinking water: a case study in rural areas of northern Rajasthan, India. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 159(1-3): 43-50.

(24) Charkhian H, Bodaqlouie A, Soleimannezhadbari E, et. al. 2020. Comparing the Bacteriostatic Effects of Different Metal Nanoparticles Against Proteus vulgaris. Current Microbiology.77: 2674-2684.