ranean countries as compared with cow's milk in this country must be to some extent responsible for the greater danger of contracting Malta fever from goat's milk.


The agglutinin absorption tests with 68 strains of Brucella melitensis showed that the species may be differentiated into at least eight serologic groups. Three of these groups included only one strain each.

The majority of bovine and porcine strains fell into one large group (33 strains), which is designated variety abortus. Five strains of human origin were of this variety.

Another group important in this country includes strains of human, bovine, caprine, and equine origins (12 strains). It is designated variety melitensis A.

Three groups which were found to be prevalent in Mediterranean countries did not occur among the strains received from countries outside of those regions. One of these groups is designated variety melitensis B; another, which corresponds with the descriptions of the so-called paramelitensis is designated variety paramelitensis; another serologic group is designated para-abortus, because it is serologically closely related to the abortus variety, and exhibits agglutination peculiarities like those of the variety parameliterisis.

Simple agglutination tests can not distinguish the varieties of Br. melitensis.




By ALICE C. EVANS, Associate Bacteriologist, Hygienic Laboratory, United

States Public Health Service

There is so much confusion in the nomenclature of the melitensisabortus group of bacterial organisms that a brief consideration of the various names that have been applied, together with conclusions as to the generic and specific names which appear to be available and valid in the light of recent investigations, must necessarily accompany the publication of reports of further investigations of this subject.

The first report of the isolation of cultures of the group of organisms under consideration was by Bruce in 1887. He obtained the specific germ, upon autopsy, from the spleens of human cases which had died of undulant fever on the island of Malta. It was not until 1893, however, when he published a more complete description of his organism, that he named it "Micrococcus melitensis."

Durham (1898) appears to have been the first writer to note that a bacillary form also occurs. He believed that conditions of temperature and medium determined whether the forms would be coccoid or bacillary,

Preisz (1903) described diphtheroid forms of the contagious abortion organism, and gave it the name “ Cornynebacterium abortus endemeci.” Since then it has been occasionally referred to in German literature under that name.


The writer is indebted to Maj. J. F. Coupal of the Army Medical Museum for the photographs.

Eyre (1912) mentions the fact that some investigators consider the organism a real "bacillus." He explains the rodlike forms as involution forms, however, or as dividing cocci between which the separation is not yet complete.

The generic name “Bacillus” for the Malta fever organism has been used by Jordan in his “ Textbook of General Bacteriology since the third edition, which appeared in 1912. The majority of American textbooks, however, have clung to the name “Micrococcus.


melitensis," although all investigators who have studied the organism in recent years have agreed that it is a rod form.

Bruce's choice of the generic name “Micrococcus” is explainable. In the Hygienic Laboratory collection of 23 strains from human sources there are three, isolated years ago, for which the geographical source is not accurately known, but circumstantial evidence indicates that two of them, possibly all three, were originally obtained on the island of Malta. The history of these strains is as follows:

Strain 102 was obtained in December, 1907, from England. According to the record it was labeled “M. melitensis, Dr. Annett." Strain 103 was obtained from the Royal Army Medical Corps of London, England, in January, 1908. It was labeled “M. melitensis, R. A. M. C.” Colonel Bruce, R. A. M. C., the discoverer of the Malta fever organism, was the chairman of the British Commission for the Investigation of Mediterranean Fever, which made its report of the investigation on the island of Malta during the years 1905–1907. It appears very likely that these two cultures received from England a few months subsequent to the publication of the final report of the commission were obtained on the island of Malta. There is no record of the origin of the third strain, No. 104, other than that it was obtained from the United States Naval Medical School in 1909. Since there had been no isolations of melitensis in this country as early as 1909, it seems probable that strain 104 also came to this country via England from Malta. Indeed, it may be the same strain as 102 or 103. The fact that all three strains under consideration belong to a serologic type which appears to be confined to Mediterranean countries (see Table 3 of the preceding paper) furnishes further evidence that they may have originated in Malta.

The cells of the three strains are almost coccoid. The smears present a slightly different appearance from that of the strains of other serologic types in which distinct rod forms are more evident, scattered among the coccoid cells. Bruce's description of his organism and the illustration accompanying it correspond with the morphology of the three strains. A photomicrograph of strain 104 is given in figure 3, Plate I, where its morphology may be compared with that of strains of other serologic types. The photographs do not, however, emphasize the distinction in morphology which impresses one when several fields of the slides prepared with


The films were prepared from 48-hour cultures on agar slopes, and were stained with carbol-fuchsin. X2420.

Fig. 1. Strain 466 (abortus variety).
Fig. 2. Strain 428 (Melitensis A variety).
Fig. 3. Strain 104 (melitensis B variety).

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