The principal experiments also indicate that it is the rays of highest refrangibility - the blue-violet and ultra-violet rays of the spectrum - which bring about the destruction of the organisms (figs. 17, 18). The practical effect of the bactericidal action of solar light is the destruction of enormous quantities of germs in rivers, the atmosphere and other exposed situations, and experiments have shown that it is especially the pathogenic bacteria - anthrax, typhoid, etc. - which thus succumb to light-action; the discovery that the electric arc is very rich in bactericidal rays led to the hope that it could be used for disinfecting purposes in hospitals, but mechanical difficulties intervene. The recent application of the action of bactericidal rays to the cure of lupus is, however, an extension of the same discovery. Even when the light is not sufficiently intense, or the exposure is too short to kill the spores, the experiments show that attenuation of virulence may result, a point of extreme importance in connexion with the lighting and ventilation of dwellings, the purification of rivers and streams, and the general diminution of epidemics in nature.
As we have seen, thermophilous bacteria can grow at high Bacteria and cold. temperatures, and it has long been known that some forms develop on ice. The somewhat different question of the resistance of ripe spores or cells to extremes of heat and cold has received attention. Ravenel, Macfadyen and Rowland have shown that several bacilli will bear exposure for seven days to the temperature of liquid air (-192° C. to -183° C.) and again grow when put into normal conditions. More recent experiments have shown that even ten hours' exposure to the temperature of liquid hydrogen -252° C. (21° on the absolute scale) failed to kill them. It is probable that all these cases of resistance of seeds, spores, etc., are to be connected with the fact that completely dry albumin does not lose its coagulability on heating to 110° C. for some hours, since it is well known that completely ripe spores and dry heat are the conditions of extreme experiments.
No sharp line can be drawn between pathogenic and non-pathogenic Pathogenic bacteria. Schizomycetes, and some of the most marked steps in the progress of our modern knowledge of these organisms depend on the discovery that their pathogenicity or virulence can be modified - diminished or increased - by definite treatment, and, in the natural course of epidemics, by alterations in the environment. Similarly we are unable to divide Schizomycetes sharply into parasites and saprophytes, since it is well proved that a number of species - facultative parasites - can become one or the other according to circumstances. These facts, and the further knowledge that many bacteria never observed as parasites, or as pathogenic forms, produce toxins or poisons as the result of their decompositions and fermentations of organic substances, have led to important results in the applications of bacteriology to medicine.Fig. 20. - The ginger-beer plant.
A. One of the brain-like gelatinous masses into which the mature "plant" condenses.
B. The bacterium with and without its gelatinous sheaths (cf. fig. 19).
C. Typical filaments and rodlets in the slimy sheaths.
D. Stages of growth of a sheathed filament - a at 9 A.M., b at 3 P.M., c at 9 P.M., d at 11 A.M. next day, e at 3 P.M., f at 9 P.M., g at 10.30 A.M. next day, h at 24 hours later. (H. M. W.)
Bacterial diseases in the higher plants have been described, Bacteriosis in plants. but the subject requires careful treatment, since several points suggest doubts as to the organism described being the cause of the disease referred to their agency. Until recently it was urged that the acid contents of plants explained their immunity from bacterial diseases, but it is now known that many bacteria can flourish in acid media. Another objection was that even if bacteria obtained access through the stomata, they could not penetrate the cell-walls bounding the intercellular spaces, but certain anaerobic forms are known to ferment cellulose, and others possess the power of penetrating the cell-walls of living cells, as the bacteria of Leguminosae first described by Marshall Ward in 1887, and confirmed by Miss Dawson in 1898. On the other hand a long list of plant-diseases has been of late years attributed to bacterial action. Some, e.g. the Sereh disease of the sugar-cane, the slime fluxes of oaks and other trees, are not only very doubtful cases, in which other organisms such as yeasts and fungi play their parts, but it may be regarded as extremely improbable that the bacteria are the primary agents at all; they are doubtless saprophytic forms which have gained access to rotting tissues injured by other agents.
Saprophytic bacteria can readily make their way down the dead hypha of an invading fungus, or into the punctures made by insects, and Aphides have been credited with the bacterial infection of carnations, though more recent researches by Woods go to show the correctness of his conclusion that Aphides alone are responsible for the carnation disease. On the other hand, recent investigation has brought to light cases in which bacteria are certainly the primary agents in diseases of plants. The principal features are the stoppage of the vessels and consequent wilting of the shoots; as a rule the cut vessels on transverse sections of the shoots appear brown and choked with a dark yellowish slime in which bacteria may be detected, e.g. cabbages, cucumbers, potatoes, etc. In the carnation disease and in certain diseases of tobacco and other plants the seat of bacterial action appears to be the parenchyma, and it may be that Aphides or other piercing insects infect the plants, much as insects convey pollen from plant to plant, or (though in a different way) as mosquitoes infect man with malaria. If the recent work on the cabbage disease may be accepted, the bacteria make their entry at the water pores at the margins of the leaf, and thence via the glandular cells to the tracheids.