Selective culture media, and equipment for anaerobic incubation of large numbers of specimens, have been developed to facilitate the quantitative enumeration of the various aerobic and anaerobic bacterial species present in the gastrointestinal tract.
The evolution of this flora has been followed in young mice from several colonies by cultivating homogenates of the different parts of the gastrointestinal tract at daily intervals from the time of birth to the time of weaning.
It has been found that the lactobacilli and anaerobic streptococci become established immediately after birth and persist in large numbers, not only in the large intestine but also in the stomach and in the small intestine. In contrast, the anaerobic bacilli of the bacteroides group become established only after the 16th day; they multiply only in the large intestine but persist in this organ in very large numbers. Other bacterial species become established at different periods of time after birth, exhibit characteristic anatomic localizations, and greatly fluctuate in numbers. In general, the populations of enterobacilli and enterococci decrease precipitously after having reached a maximum level shortly after the beginning of colonization.