Electron micrographs indicate, in harmony with previous findings, that the pneumococcal capsule is a gel of low density outside of and closely applied to the bacterial cell wall. Interaction with homologous immune rabbit serum greatly increases the thickness and density of this capsular gel; the increase in thickness of the specifically swollen pneumococcal capsule may exceed by 25-fold the thickness of the surface deposit caused by rabbit immune serum on the cell walls and flagella of homologous non-capsulated bacteria.

Conclusions drawn from these and earlier data are that homologous immune serum permeates the pneumococcal capsular gel; the specific antibody combines with the capsular polysaccharide; non-specific serum components are secondarily adsorbed to or combined with the specific antigen-antibody complex. The relatively low antibacterial titers characteristic of pneumococcal antisera can be explained in part by the permeation of the capsule by antiserum, in part by the high combining capacity of pneumococcal carbohydrate for antibody (17).

This content is only available as a PDF.