A study was made of the origin, occurrence, and properties of natural antibodies to Gram-negative bacteria in the normal serum of several species. Antibody was measured by a procedure based on the bactericidal reaction carried out under conditions in which activity was a function of the amount of antibody contributed by the test serum.
Antibody to seven genera of the family Enterobacteriaceae were demonstrated in normal human serum. The specificity of these antibodies was affirmed by absorption with homologous bacteria and by inhibition of bactericidal activity with purified homologous somatic antigen. Absorption with graded amounts of bacterial suspensions showed that a large excess of bacteria led to non-specific removal of antibodies. Analogous findings were also made with immune antibody.
As determined by quantitative absorption tests no difference could be found in the avidity of natural and immune antibody. Natural antibody in the serum of various species differed considerably as regards their lability to heat, but in parallel tests immune antibody of each species was significantly more heat-stable.
The time and appearance of the antibodies varied in young animals, of different species. Mice developed these antibodies at the earliest age, with guinea pigs, rats, and rabbits following in that order.
Serum from germ-free rats and chickens had no demonstrable antibodies to E. coli or S. typhosa whereas these antibodies were present in the serum of litter mates reared under conventional conditions. On the other hand germ-free and conventional mice did not differ appreciably as regards the levels of these same antibodies.