The epidemics we have observed, were due to the presence and growth in the frogs of Bacillus hydrophilus fuscus. This was proved by recovering the bacillus in pure culture from the body fluids of frogs sick or dead of the disease, and the inoculation of healthy frogs with an emulsion of the pure culture, and by obtaining the same clinical picture and pathological findings as in the original diseased frogs; and, finally, by recovering the bacillus in pure culture from frogs inoculated and sick or dying as a result of the inoculation.
The disease is widely distributed throughout North America and Europe, and in this country and Canada is known as "red-leg."
It has been observed by us chiefly in the warm weather of September and October. The disease is characterized by congestion of the ventral surfaces of the body, with more or less ulceration in, and hæmorrhage beneath, the skin, bloating due to serous exudation into the lymph sacs, gradual failure to respond to stimuli, which symptoms are followed by coma and death, the last being occasionally preceded by tetanic seizures.
After death hæmorrhages into the muscles and degenerative changes in the muscles, spleen, liver, and, to a slight degree, in the intestinal tract, are found. The blood shows an advanced degree of anæmia and leucocytosis.
Predisposing causes of the disease are lesions of the skin, which seem to be the usual portal of entry of the infection, and lowered resistance from heat and from anæmia.
By a series of controlled experiments with inoculated frogs we have shown that, while temperatures a little above freezing have no harmful effect upon the frogs, they completely control all manifestations of the disease in inoculated or diseased frogs, if the frogs are left in the cold for a period as long as seven days; and, further, that even short periods in the cold chamber will bring about a delay of the fatal results in diseased or inoculated frogs.
The anæmia so often found in apparently healthy frogs seems in many cases to be due to the presence in the lungs of the frog of a parasite, the Distomum cylindraceum, which, occurring in sufficiently large numbers in an individual frog, is capable of materially diminishing the available supply of red corpuscles.
Severe laking of the blood, the presence of numerous isolated red-cell nuclei, and great diminution in the number, or almost total absence of the red cells in the diseased frogs, are in proportion to the severity of the infection and due to bacterial action.
The presence of the hæmatozoan parasite, the Drepanidium, does not play any part as a predisposing or exciting cause of the disease.
The ascarid Rhabdomena nigrovenosum, although frequently present as a parasite in the lungs of the frogs, plays no part in causing or promoting the disease.