Bergey’s Manual of Systematic Bacteriology and Determinative Bacteriology

  • Bacterial systematics has undergone several changes and is continuously in a state of flux as our knowledge of microorganism is far from complete and new information is being added every day.
  • In 1923 David Hendricks Bergey, professor of bacteriology at the University of Pennsylvania and four colleagues published a classification of bacteria that could be used for identification of bacterial species.

Bergey's Manual of Systematic Bacteriology and Determinative Bacteriology

The Bergey’s manual of determinative bacteriology

  • It has been a widely used reference since the publication of the first edition in 1923.
  • Multiple editions of Bergey’s Manual of Determinative Bacteriology, published between 1923 and 1994, organized bacteria in groups by phenotypic characteristics, with no attempt to sort out higher phylogenetic relationships.
  • They were very useful for identifying unknown bacterial cultures, however. In lab, the most recent edition of Bergey’s Manual of Determinative Bacteriology, published in 1994 and reprinted in 2000, is used to identify the isolates.
  • The first edition of Bergey’s Manual of Systematic Bacteriology, which came out in four volumes from 1984 through 1989, attempted to organize bacterial species according to known phylogenetic relationships, an approach that continued with a second edition, published in five volumes from 2001 through 2012.
  • The organization of Bergey’s Manual of Systematic Bacteriology makes it impractical for helping place unknown bacteria into major taxa, but it contains far more detail on the families, genera, and species and is far more up to date than the Determinative manual.
  • The manual does not classify bacteria according to evolutionary relatedness but provides identification (determining) schemes, based on such criteria as cell wall composition, morphology, differential staining, oxygen requirement, and biochemical testing.
  • In this volume, bacteria are assigned 19 parts based primarily on following features like energy and carbon source, mode of locomotion, morphology and gram stain reaction, gaseous requirement and endospore formation ability.
  • The edition was published by Wilkins and Baltimore Company of USA.

Bergey’s Manual of Systematic Bacteriology

  • From 1984, the Bergey’s Manual was renamed Bergey’s Manual of Systematic Bacteriology is being published in separate volumes.
  • This manual includes 35 sections based on characters like general shape, morphology, gram staining, presence of endospore, motility, oxygen relationships, mode of energy production.
  • The manual include four divisions of the kingdom Prokaryotae.
  1. Gracilicutes (gram -ve cell wall)
  2. Firmicutes (gram + ve cell wall other than actinomycetes)
  3. Tenericutes (bacteria lacking cell wall other than actinomycetes) and
  4. Mendoricutes (bacteria lacking peptidoglycan in their cell wall like Archaebacteria).
  • After 1984, the year of publication of first volume of Bergey’s manual of systematic bacteriology much work has done on sequencing of rRNA, DNA and proteins which has made the phylogenetic analysis of prokaryote feasible.
  • As a consequence, the second edition of Bergey’s manual is largely phylogenetic rather than phonetic and thus quiet different from the first edition and second edition is published in five volumes.
  • It has more ecological information about individual taxa.
  • The second edition does not group all the clinically important prokaryotes together as the first edition; instead, pathogenic sps will be placed phylogenetically and thus scattered throughout the following five volumes.
    • 1: The Archaea, and the deeply branching and phototrophic bacteria.
    • 2: The Proteobacteria
    • 3: The low G + C gram + ve bacteria
    • 4: The high G + C gram + ve bacteria
    • 5: The Planctomycetes, Spirochaetes, Fibrobacteres, Bacteroidetes and Fusobacteria.
  • The classification presented in 9th eds. of Bergey’s manual of determinative bacteriology (1994) is especially designed to be used of the identification of bacteria and is different from the classification system presented in Bergey’s manual of systematic bacteriology.
  • In this edition bacteria have been characterized into 35 groups under above 4 major categories. The first category include group 1 to 16 (ex. Spirochaetes, sulphate and sulphur reducing bacteria, rickethesias and chlamydias)
  • The second category include group 17 to 29 (ex. Gram positive cocci, endospore forming gram positive rods and cocci, non sporing gram positive rods)
  • The third category includes the group 30 (Mycoplasma).
  • The last or fourth category includes group 31 to 35 (Ex. Methanogens, Archaeal sulphate reducers, extremely halophiles, cell wall less archaebacteria)
  • The most recent revision of Bergery’s manual divides bacteria into four division (or phyla) according to the characteristics of cell wall which division is subdivided into sections to such characters like gram stain reactions, cell shape, cell arrangements, oxygen requirement, motility and nutritional and metabolic properties.
  • Each section consists of a number of genera. In some sections, genera are grouped into families and orders in other sections, they are not.

Gram -ve bacteria- Group 1-16

Ex – Spirochaetes

  • Sulphate & sulphur reducing bacteria
  • Rickettsias
  • Chlamydias
  • Anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria
  • Oxygenic phototrophic bacteria
  • Aerobic chemolithotrophs
  • Budding bacteria
  • Sheathed bacteria
  • Non photosynthetic non fruiting gliding bacteria
  • Fruiting gliding bacteria

Gram +ve bacteria- Group 17-29

Ex – gram-positive cocci

  • Endospore-forming gram-positive rods and cocci
  • Non-sporing gram-positive rods.
  • Mycobacteria
  • Non-cardiform actinomycetes
  • Genera with multilocular sporangia
  • Actinoplasma
  • Streptomycetes and related genera
  • Thermomonospora
  • Thermoactinomycetes
  • Other genera


lacking cell wall group- 30

Archaebacteria- Group 31-35

  • Methanogens
  • Archaeal sulphate reducer
  • Extremely halophytes
  • Cell wall less archaebacteria
  • Extremely thermophilic and hyperthermophilic sulphur metabolizers

The Bergey’s manual of systematic bacteriology has four volumes which contain the bacteria considered to be of practical importance and in medicine, or those that illustrate biologically unusual or interesting principles. The four volumes are:-

  • Vol 1: It include gram -ve bacteria (section 1-11) (1984)
  • Vol 2: It include gram +ve bacteria, photrophic and other specialized bacteria including gliding bacteria (section 12-17) (1986)
  • Vol 3: It includes bacteria with unusual cell wall like Archae-bacteria (section 18-25) (1989)
  • Vol 4: It include Actinomycetes and other filamentous bacteria (section 26 – 33) (1991)

All of four volumes contain the organism with prokaryotic or primordial nucleus and are kept in single kingdom Prokaryote.


  1. Trivedi P.C., Pandey S, and Bhadauria S. (2010). Textbook of Microbiology. Pointer Publishers; First edition
  2. Sastry A.S. & Bhat S.K. (2016). Essentials of Medical Microbiology. New Delhi : Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers.
  3. Jeffery C. Pommerville. Alcamo’s Fundamentals of Microbiology (Tenth Edition). Jones and Bartlett Student edition.
  4. Gerard J. Tortora, Berdell R. Funke, Christine L. Case. Pearson – Microbiology: An Introduction. Benjamin Cummings.

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