Two strains of Bacillus pumilus (M11 and M38) and one strain each of Bacillus cereus (M27), Bacillus subtilis (M67), and Enterobacter agglomerans (M14) were identified from the air of Lancashire cotton mills. These strains were tested for cytopathic effects in Vero cells; B pumilus and B cereus strains were also examined for haemolytic activity, lecithinase production, and proteolytic action on casein. Rounding and clumping of the Vero cells occurred after the addition of supernatants prepared from B pumilus and B cereus strains; finger-like projections developed in the cells treated with B pumilus supernatants. Minimal effects occurred with B subtilis and E agglomerans. After two hours of exposure B pumilus (M11) produced the greatest effect, but treatment with trypan blue showed that most cells exposed to the M11 strain were still alive after 96 hours of exposure; those exposed to the supernatant prepared from the M38 strain of B pumilus were dead. Sheep erythrocytes were lysed more rapidly by B cereus than by B pumilus, B cereus (strongly positive) had a greater effect on lecithin than either of the B pumilus strains (M38 weakly positive, M11 negative). All hydrolised casein but the effect was more rapid with one of the B pumilus (M11) strains. It is concluded that not only do the toxins of B pumilus differ from those of B cereus, but there are also differences between the toxins produced by the two strains of B pumilus (M11 and M38).
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