In a study of the phagocytosis of staphylococci by human leukocytes it has been observed that strains of staphylococci producing human infection were phagocytized by human polymorphonuclear leukocytes in vitro under conditions in which virulent pneumococci, streptococci, or Klebsiella were rarely engulfed.
In the presence of human leukocytes in plasma there was a rapid fall in the numbers of viable staphylococci of both pathogenic and non-pathogenic strains, the beginning of which was detectable in 10 to 15 minutes. The fall in culturable pathogenic microorganisms was considerably less marked, however, and a rapid resurgence of growth occurred in 4 to 8 hours, whereas the number of culturable non-pathogenic microorganisms remained low for 18 to 24 hours.
These differences appear to be explained by the observation that a significant number of microorganisms of pathogenic strains were able to survive within human leukocytes. Such intracellular survival was found to be associated with evidence of destruction of the leukocytes. In contrast, non-pathogenic strains of staphylococci failed to survive within human polymorphonuclear leukocytes following ingestion.