Hemolytic streptococci, when freshly isolated from pathogenic lesions, form characteristic matt colonies and contain the type-specific substance M.
Two varieties of matt cultures, equally rich in type-specific substance, can be distinguished by the virulence of the organisms for mice: (1) the matt virulent variety, (2) the matt attenuated variety.
The matt forms of hemolytic streptococci can be degraded to a third variety which forms glossy colonies and is always relatively avirulent. This is accomplished by prolonged cultivation on artificial media, by selection of colonies or by cultivation in homologous anti-M serum. In the process of degradation the cocci lose the major part of their type-specific substance but complete disappearance of type-specific substance rarely occurs.
The glossy variant form, when fully degraded, is highly stable; but glossy cultures which have retained some type-specific substance can occasionally be reverted to the original matt form.
Toxic filtrates from matt and glossy cultures are approximately equal in skin reactivity.
No relationship appears to exist between virulence and toxigenicity.