A study has been made of the fate of staphylococci and tubercle bacilli resuspended in aqueous media at slightly acid reactions. The tests were carried out at several acid reactions in balanced ionic media containing 0.5 per cent serum albumin. These experimental conditions were selected in order to approximate those which are probably encountered by pathogenic agents in inflammatory areas and in the intracellular environment of the leucocytes after phagocytosis.
The viability of the microorganisms at a given pH was markedly influenced by the composition of the medium, being decreased by addition to the latter of lactic, acetic, propionic, and butyric acids, and increased by the addition of certain ketone bodies such as dihydroxyacetone and pyruvic, ß-hydroxybutyric, α-ketoglutaric, and oxalacetic acids.
The presence of ketone bodies in the medium afforded to the microorganisms some protection against the bactericidal effect of lactic and acetic acids at acid reactions.
The minimum and the optimum pH for growth were found to be dependent on the composition of the medium. Both were higher in the presence of lactic, acetic, propionic, and butyric acids than in the media without organic acids added. In contrast, the addition of ketone bodies to the medium allowed microbial multiplication even in acid media (approximately at pH 5.3 or even lower).
The fact that lactic acid antagonizes, whereas ketone bodies favor, the survival and multiplication of staphylococci and tubercle bacilli at acid reactions, is discussed in relation to the high susceptibility to infection which is often associated with ketosis of various etiology.