But what is the nature of these vibrios? We have already said that we believe that they are nothing but the ordinary vibrios of putrefaction, reduced to a state of extreme tenuity by the special conditions of nutrition involved in the fermentable medium used; in a word, we think that the fermentation in question might be called putrefaction of tartrate of lime. It would be easy enough to determine this point by growing the vibrios of such fermentation in media adapted to the production of the ordinary forms of vibrio; but this is an experiment which we have not ourselves tried.
One word more on the subject of these curious beings. In a great many of them there appears to be something like a clear spot, a kind of bead, at one of their extremities. This is an illusion arising from the fact that the extremity of these vibrios is curved, hanging downwards, thus causing a greater refraction at that particular point, and leading us to think that the diameter is greater at that extremity. We may easily undeceive ourselves if we watch the movements of the vibrio, when we will readily recognize the bend, especially as it is brought into the vertical plane passing over the rest of the filament. In this way we will see the bright spot, the head, disappear, and then reappear.
The chief inference that it concerns us to draw from the preceding facts is one which cannot admit of doubt, and which we need not insist on any further—namely that vibrios, as met with in the fermentation of neutral tartrate of lime, are able to live and multiply when entirely deprived of air.
As another example of life without air, accompanied by fermentation properly so called, we may lastly cite the fermentation of lactate of lime in a mineral medium.
In the experiment described in the last paragraph, it will be remembered that the ferment liquid and the germs employed in its impregnation came in contact with air, although only for a very brief time. Now, notwithstanding that we possess exact observations which prove that the diffusion of oxygen and nitrogen in a liquid absolutely deprived of air, so far from taking place rapidly, is, on the contrary, a very slow process indeed; yet we were anxious to guard the experiment that we are about to describe from the slightest possible trace of oxygen at the moment of impregnation.
We employed a liquid prepared as follows: Into from 9 to 10 litres (somewhat over 2 gallons) of pure water the following salts [Footnote: Should the solution of lactate of lime be turbid, it may be clarified by filtration, after previously adding a small quantity of phosphate of ammonia, which throws down phosphate of lime. It is only after this process of clarification and filtration that the phosphates of the formula are added. The solution soon becomes turbid if left in contact with air, in consequence of the spontaneous formation of bacteria.] were introduced successively, viz: