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A serovar or serotype is a grouping of microorganisms or viruses based on their cell surface antigens. Serovars allow organisms to be classified at the sub-species level; an issue of particular importance in epidemiology.[1]

Serovars may be established based on virulence factors, lipopolysaccharides in Gram-negative bacteria, presence of an exotoxin (pertussis toxin in Bordetella pertussis, for example), plasmids, phages, or other characteristics which differentiate two members of the same species. [1][2]

Salmonella, for example, has over 4400 serovars: Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, S. enterica serovar Typhi, and S. enterica serovar Dublin, to name a few.[2]

Vibrio cholerae, which causes cholera, has 139 serotypes, based on cell antigens. Only two of them produce an enterotoxin and are pathogens: 0:1 and 0:139.

Serotypes were discovered by the American microbiologist Rebecca Lancefield in 1933.[3]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Baron EJ (1996). Classification. In: Baron's Medical Microbiology (Baron S et al, eds.) (4th ed. ed.). Univ of Texas Medical Branch. (via NCBI Bookshelf) ISBN 0-9631172-1-1.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ryan KJ; Ray CG (editors) (2004). Sherris Medical Microbiology (4th ed. ed.). McGraw Hill. ISBN 0-8385-8529-9.
  3. Lancefield RC (1933). "A serological differentiation of human and other groups of hemolytic streptococci". J Exp Med. 57: 571.


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