From the filtered nasopharyngeal washings of patients in the first 36 hours of uncomplicated epidemic influenza and rarely in later stages of the disease, we have cultivated a minute bacilloid body, Bacterium pneumosintes, 0.15 to 0.3 microns in length, of constant cultural characters and capable of indefinite propagation on artificial media. This organism, not of the nature of ordinary bacteria, was also recovered in pure culture from the unfiltered and filtered lung tissue of rabbits and guinea pigs inoculated with unfiltered and filtered nasopharyngeal washings of early influenza cases, both from the first epidemic of 1918–19 and from the second one of 1920. The organism grows only under strictly anaerobic conditions, passes Berkefeld V and N filters, and withstands the action of sterile 50 percent glycerol for a period of months.
It has been recovered from cultures contaminated with a variety of ordinary bacteria such as Bacillus pfeifferi, pneumococci, streptococci, and staphylococci, and has been experimentally cultivated in symbiosis with them.
Similar cultivation of control materials uniformly failed to yield growths of this organism. The materials tested consisted of the unfiltered and filtered nasopharyngeal washings of persons free from influenza, some of whom were suffering from acute coryza, the lung tissue of normal rabbits and of rabbits with bacterial respiratory infections, and the uninoculated media.
The intratracheal injection in rabbits and guinea pigs of mass cultures of this organism has induced effects on the blood and lungs of these animals which are not to be distinguished from those obtained with the nasopharyngeal secretions of patients in the early hours of epidemic influenza. From the pulmonary lesions thus induced the same organism has been recovered in pure culture, and has been found to cause similar lesions on subsequent animal passage. Its pathogenicity is not lost by prolonged artificial cultivation.
Our experiments indicate that the cultivable bodies obtained directly from human nasopharyngeal washings and from affected rabbit lungs are strains of the same organism. This organism appears to be the source of the reactions which occur in experimental animals—rabbits and guinea pigs—as a result of the intratracheal injection of nasopharyngeal washings obtained during the early hours of uncomplicated epidemic influenza in man.