The experiments reported above confirm the fact that lytic principle is distributed in active solution in a state of indivisible units. This permits its quantitative evaluation by serial dilution, as well as by plating on agar. The latter method, however, often gives readings considerably lower than those obtained by the broth dilution method of titration. By varying the concentration of agar it has been possible to show that the discrepancy is due to adsorption of the lytic agent on agar. When the concentration of the latter is increased from 0.3 per cent to 2.5 per cent the number of plaques of lysis is reduced more than 100 times. At the same time the average size of the plaques also decreases approximately to one-tenth of the original.
The size, as well as the number of plaques, has been found to depend also on the condition of the culture employed in titration. Thus, when the culture exposed to the action of lytic agent is composed of young susceptible bacteria, the greater the concentration of bacteria, the smaller the plaques.
When the culture is composed partly of young and partly of old susceptible bacteria, both the size and the number of the plaques are diminished with the increase in the relative concentration of old bacteria. On the other hand, presence in the culture of resistant bacteria does not affect either the size or the number of the plaques so long as the relative concentration of susceptible bacteria in the culture is sufficient to allow formation of them. The plaques appearing in the presence of a high concentration of resistant variants in the culture are relatively indistinct owing to overgrowth.
Under carefully controlled conditions the size of plaques is found to be determined by the character of the lytic filtrate. Thus in the case of lytic agents which act upon more than one bacterial species the size of the plaques remains constant, irrespective of the bacterial substratum used for the production of the active filtrate.