1. Pneumococci in contact with hemoglobin transform this into methemoglobin. This reaction occurs only when the pneumococci are living; it is not induced by the culture fluid or by extracts of the bacteria.
2. The reaction does not occur when hemoglobin is added to an emulsion of washed pneumococci in salt solution. However, if minute traces of dextrose be added to such a mixture, the reaction quickly occurs. The dextrose may be replaced by any one of a number of other sugars, and also by certain other organic substances, if the latter are added in large amounts. Certain other organic substances are not able to replace dextrose, but it has been impossible to determine any special molecular configuration on which this property depends.
3. The formation of methemoglobin by pneumococci probably resembles the formation of methemoglobin by certain chemical substances, such as aminophenol.
4. From the work of others it is probable that the formation of methemoglobin is always a reaction of oxidation. In the formation of methemoglobin by reducing agents, the latter are first oxidized, this occurring better in the presence of oxyhemoglobin. In certain instances an alternate oxidative and reduction of the transforming agent occurs, so that the reaction is continuous.
The effect which the presence or absence of free oxygen has on the reaction with pneumococci suggests that this follows similar lines.
5. The reaction does not occur in the absence of oxygen. If the free oxygen be first removed, and then replaced, the reaction occurs more rapidly than if the oxygen had not been removed. The presence of free oxygen in excess slightly delays the reaction, possibly because of the inhibition of the reduction process which forms the first part of the reaction.
6. The explanation of this phenomenon of methemoglobin production is not only of importance so far as this special reaction is concerned, but also because it suggests an explanation for the manner in which pathological effects are produced by those bacteria which apparently produce no soluble toxin.