Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 58.djvu/251

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
243
PHYSICAL AGENTS AND BACTERIAL LIFE.

as typhoid or cholera, their transmission to man by water may be excluded by simple boiling or by an adequate nitration. The freezing of water, whilst stopping the further multiplication of organisms, may conserve the life of disease germs by eliminating the destructive action of commoner competitive forms. Thus the typhoid bacillus may remain frozen in ice for some months without injury. Employment of ordinary cold is not, therefore, a protection against dangerous disease germs.

As regards electricity, there is little or no evidence of its direct action on bacterial life, the effects produced appear to be of an indirect character, due to the development of heat or to the products of electrolysis.

Ozone is a powerful disinfectant, and its introduction into polluted water has a most marked purifying effect. The positive effects of the electric current may, therefore, be traced to the action of the chemical products and of heat. I am not aware that any direct action of the X-rays on bacteria has up to the present been definitely proved.

Mechanical agitation, if slight, may favor, and if excessive, may hinder bacterial development. Violent shaking or concussion may not necessarily prove fatal so long as no mechanical lesion of the bacteria is brought about. If, however, substances likely to produce triturating effects are introduced, a disintegration and death of the cells follows. Thus Rowland, by a very rapid shaking of tubercle bacilli in a steel tube, with quartz sand and hard steel balls, produced their complete disintegration in ten minutes.

Bacteria appear to be very resistant to the action of pressure. At 300-450 atmospheres putrefaction still takes place, and at 600 atmospheres the virulence of the anthrax bacillus remained unimpaired. Of the physical agents that affect bacterial life, temperature is the most important. Temperature profoundly influences the activity of bacteria. It may favor or hinder their growth, or it may put an end to their life. If we regard temperature in the first instance as a favoring agent, very striking differences are to be noted. The bacteria show a most remarkable range of temperature under which their growth is possible, extending from zero to 70° C. If we begin at the bottom of the scale we find organisms in the water and in soil that are capable of growth and development at zero. Amongst these are certain species of phosphorescent bacteria, which continue to emit light even at this low temperature. At the Jenner Institute we have met with organisms growing and developing at 34-40° F. The vast majority of interest to us find, however, the best conditions for their growth from 15° up to 37° C. Each species has a minimum, an optimum and a maximum temperature at which it will develop. It is important in studying any 'given