A quantitative study of the combined antiphagocytic effects of the M protein and the hyaluronic acid capsules of four strains of Group A streptococci revealed the following facts relating to their intraperitoneal virulence in mice and rats:
1. The most virulent strain, S23M (matt), produced both a large hyaluronic acid capsule and a full complement of M protein, the combined effects of which rendered the organism highly resistant to surface phagocytosis.
2. The slightly less virulent strain, T14/46 (matt virulent) was somewhat more susceptible to surface phagocytosis owing to the fact that its smaller capsule was less antiphagocytic than that of the S23M organism.
3. The glossy variant of the S23 strain (S23G), which ranked third in virulence, was still more susceptible to surface phagocytosis because of its lack of detectable M substance. Its large hyaluronic acid capsule, however, was capable of protecting it against phagocytosis on glass.
4. The least virulent strain, T14 (matt avirulent), was the most susceptible of all to phagocytosis. Though it possessed both M substance and capsule, which together prevented its phagocytosis on glass, each of them was shown to be quantitatively and functionally deficient as compared to Strain S23M.
The differences in phagocytability, which appear to be directly related to the pathogenicity of the organisms, could be adequately demonstrated in vitro only by phagocytic tests designed to measure surface phagocytosis in the absence of opsonins. This fact is in keeping with the observation, previously reported, that surface phagocytosis plays a critical role in the defense of the host, particularly during the earliest stages of experimental streptococcal infections. Its possible relation to suppuration during the later stages of infection is also discussed.