into the higher plants as sulphates, built up into proteids, decomposed by putrefactive bacteria and yielding SH2 which the sulphur bacteria oxidize, the resulting sulphur is then again oxidized to SO3 and again combined with calcium to gypsum, the cycle being thus complete.
Chalybeate waters, pools in marshes near ironstone, &c, abound in bacteria, some of which belong to the remarkable genera Crenothrix, Cladothrix and Leptothrix, and contain ferric oxide, i.e. rust, in their cell-walls. This iron deposit is Iron bacteria.not merely mechanical but is due to the physiological activity of the organism which, according to Winogradsky, liberates energy by oxidizing ferrous and ferric oxide in its protoplasm—a view not accepted by H. Molisch. The iron must be in certain soluble conditions, however, and the soluble bicarbonate of the protoxide of chalybeate springs seems most favourable, the hydrocarbonate absorbed by the cells is oxidized, probably thus—
2FeCO3 + 3OH2 + O = Fe2(OH)6 + 2CO2.
The ferric hydroxide accumulates in the sheath, and gradually passes into the more insoluble ferric oxide. These actions are of extreme importance in nature, as their continuation results in the enormous deposits of bog-iron ore, ochre, and—since Molisch has shown that the iron can be replaced by manganese in some bacteria—of manganese ores.
Considerable advances in our knowledge of the various chromogenic bacteria have been made by the studies of Beyerinck, Lankester, Engelmann, Ewart and others, and have assumed exceptional importance owing to the discovery that Bacteriopurpurin—thePigment bacteria. red colouring matter contained in certain sulphur bacteria—absorbs certain rays of solar energy, and enables the organism to utilize the energy for its own life-purposes. Engelmann showed, for instance, that these red-purple bacteria collect in the ultra-red, and to a less extent in the orange and green, in bands which agree with the absorption spectrum of the extracted colouring matter. Not only so, but the evident parallelism between this absorption of light and that by the chlorophyll of green plants, is completed by the demonstration that oxygen is set free by these bacteria—i.e. by means of radiant energy trapped by their colour-screens the living cells are in both cases enabled to do work, such as the reduction of highly oxidized compounds.
The most recent observations of Molisch seem to show that bacteria possessing bacteriopurpurin exhibit a new type of assimilation—the assimilation of organic material under the influence of light. In the case of these red-purple bacteria the colouring matter is contained in the protoplasm of the cell, but in most chromogenic bacteria it occurs as excreted pigment on and between the cells, or is formed by their action in the medium. Ewart has confirmed the principal conclusions concerning these purple, and also the so-called chlorophyll bacteria (B. viride, B. chlorinum, &c.), the results going to show that these are, as many authorities have held, merely minute algae. The pigment itself may be soluble in water, as is the case with the blue-green fluorescent body formed by B. pyocyaneus, B. fluorescens and a whole group of fluorescent bacteria. Neelson found that the pigment of B. cyanogenus gives a band in the yellow and strong lines at E and F in the solar spectrum—an absorption spectrum almost identical with that of triphenyl-rosaniline. In the case of the scarlet and crimson red pigments of B. prodigiosus, B. ruber, &c., the violet of B. violacens, B janthinus, &c., the red-purple of the sulphur bacteria, and indeed most bacterial pigments, solution in water does not occur, though alcohol extracts the colour readily. Finally, there are a few forms which yield their colour to neither alcohol nor water, e.g. the yellow Micrococcus cereus-flavus and the B. berolinensis. Much work is still necessary before we can estimate the importance of these pigments. Their spectra are only imperfectly known in a few cases, and the bearing of the absorption on the life-history is still a mystery. In many cases the colour-production is dependent on certain definite conditions—temperature, presence of oxygen, nature of the food-medium, &c. Ewart’s important discovery that some of these lipochrome pigments occlude oxygen, while others do not, may have bearings on the facultative anaerobism of these organisms.
A branch of bacteriology which offers numerous problems of importance is that which deals with the organisms so common in milk, butter and cheese. Milk is a medium not only admirably suited to the growth of bacteria, but, as a matter of fact, Dairy bacteria.always contaminated with these organisms in the ordinary course of supply. F. Lafar has stated that 20% of the cows in Germany suffer from tuberculosis, which also affected 17.7% of the cattle slaughtered in Copenhagen between 1891 and 1893, and that one in every thirteen samples of milk examined in Paris, and one in every nineteen in Washington, contained tubercle bacilli. Hence the desirability of sterilizing milk used for domestic purposes becomes imperative.
Fig. 18.—A similar preparation to fig. 17, except that two slit-like openings of equal
length allowed the light to pass, and that the light was that of the electric arc passed
through a quartz prism and casting a powerful spectrum on the plate. The upper slit
was covered with glass, the lower with quartz. The bacteria were killed over the clear
areas shown. The left-hand boundary of the clear area corresponds to the line F
(green end of the blue), and the beginning of the ultra-violet was at the extreme right
of the upper (short) area. The lower area of bactericidal action extends much farther
to the right, because the quartz allows more ultra-violet rays to pass than does glass.
The red-yellow-green to the left of F were without effect. (H. M. W.)
No milk is free from bacteria, because the external orifices of the milk-ducts always contain them, but the forms present in the normal fluid are principally those which induce such changes as the souring or “turning” so frequently observed in standing milk (these were examined by Lord Lister as long ago as 1873–1877, though several other species are now known), and those which bring about the various changes and fermentations in butter and cheese made from it. The presence of foreign germs, which may gain the upper hand and totally destroy the flavours of butter and cheese, has led to the search for those particular forms to which the approved properties are due. A definite bacillus to which the peculiarly fine flavour of certain butters is due, is said to be largely employed in pure cultures in American dairies, and in Denmark certain butters are said to keep fresh much longer owing to the use of pure cultures and the treatment employed to suppress the forms which cause rancidity. Quite distinct is the search for the germs which cause undesirable changes, or “diseases”; and great strides have been made in discovering the bacteria concerned in rendering milk “ropy,” butter “oily” and “rancid,” &c. Cheese in its numerous forms contains myriads of bacteria, and some of these are now known to be concerned in the various processes of ripening and other changes affecting the product, and although little is known as to the exact part played by any species, practical applications of the discoveries of the decade 1890–1900 have been made, e.g. Edam cheese. The Japanese have cheeses resulting from the bacterial fermentation of boiled Soja beans.