The colony topography of tubercle bacilli is significantly affected by altering the pH of the culture medium on which the organisms are grown. Under the conditions of these experiments, avian tubercle bacilli produce two variants, rough and smooth. The former are most numerous on the most acid medium used (pH 6.0); the smooth colonies are obtained over a broad range of pH.
Three colonial variants of bovine and human tubercle bacilli are described. Both mammalian types produce greater numbers of rough colonies at pH 6.0. The bovine type strains produce greatest numbers of smooth colonies in the pH range 6.4 to 6.8, and intermediate colonies on alkaline medium. The human type strains produce greatest numbers of smooth colonies at pH 6.4 and large numbers of intermediate colonies at pH 6.8 and pH 7.2.
Included among the avian and bovine strains studied are organisms of widely varying pathogenic properties. Virulent and attenuated strains of a given type produce similar colonial variants under similar environmental conditions.