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JAMA 100 Years Ago
July 1, 1998


Author Affiliations

Edited by Brian P. Pace, MA, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 1998;280(1):102A. doi:10.1001/jama.280.1.102

R. Emmerich and O. Löw publish a preliminary communication in the Munich Med. Woch. of November 8, in which they assert that the final destruction of bacilli is due to an enzyme which they themselves form, the effects of which are transferable from one kind of bacillus to another. They state: 1. The growth gradually ceases in many cultures, in spite of an abundance of suitable nutrient medium, and this they have found to result from the presence of an enzyme, formed by the bacteria, which in time destroys them. 2. Some of these bacteriologic enzymes are able to destroy other bacteria, even the pathogenic, besides the species from which they were derived. As these bacteriolytic enzymes are also able to destroy pathogenic bacteria in the animal organism they are capable of curing infective diseases. It is an easy and certain process to cure, with the enzyme of the bacillus pyocyaneus, within thirty hours, an anthrax infection progressing to a fatal course. 1 c.c. of this enzyme solution dissolves in vitro in twelve to twenty-four hours millions of diphtheria, cholera and typhus bacilli, showing that this pyocyaneus enzyme can also be used for these infections. Even the plague bacillus is destroyed by it. 1 c.c. will dissolve thirty millions of plague bacilli within a few hours. 4. The bacteriolytic enzymes are destroyed in the animal organism and permanent immunity can not be obtained with them, although a few injections will cure the infective disease. But the writers have succeeded in combining the enzyme in vitro with an animal albuminoid which make it last longer in the animal organism and therefore adapts it to immunization. With this highly molecular complex combination they have succeeded in immunizing rabbits against anthrax and guinea pigs against diphtheria. In all probability the effective principle of an immunizing serum is nothing but a combination of the specific enzyme with an organic albuminoid (cause of artificial immunity). The so-called "agglutination" is the first stage in the dissolving of the bacteria by the enzyme combination. 5. The difference in the behavior of the immunizing sera in the presence of specific, pathogenic bacteria in vitro and in the animal organism, depends upon the presence or absence of oxygen in the form of gas. Excluding this completely, in vitro, the specific pathogenic bacteria are not only agglutinated by the immunizing serum but killed and dissolved, as was proved repeatedly with cholera and typhus bacilli.