Letter | Published:

Sulphonamide Drugs and Pneumococcus Capsular Polysaccharides

Nature volume 143, page 724 (29 April 1939) | Download Citation



THE remarkable curative effects on certain types of bacterial infection of drugs of the sulphonamide group1 immediately opens up a new field of research into the mode of action of these drugs. In a bacteriological examination of organisms isolated from the peritoneal cavity during a course of treatment of an experimental pneumococcal infection in mice by ‘M and B 693’ (2-[p-aminobenzenesulphonamido]-pyridine), Whitby2 reported that the “capsules became swollen and crenated and eventually disappeared”. Hence it might seem that the drug has a direct destructive action on the pneumococcus polysaccharide-capsular material. It is well known that the capsule is a defence mechanism of virulent bacteria and, for example, in pneumococcal infections, is probably the decisive factor in determining the fate of the bacteria in the host. Any destructive action on capsular material by sulphonamide drugs would be comparable to the effects of the polysaccharide-splitting enzymes studied by Avery, Dubos and others3. In this work it has been clearly demonstrated that denudation of the organism of its capsule leaves the cell exposed to the phagocytic action of the body and usually the attack of pnemuonia is repelled.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1.

    , Lancet, 235, 6011 (1938).

  2. 2.

    , Lancet, 235, 1210 (1938).

  3. 3.

    , "The Biology of Pneumococcus", chap. ix.

  4. 4.

    , and , Lancet, 236, 431 (1939).

  5. 5.

    and , Cent. Bact., II, 85, 65 (1931). and , J. Bact., 27, 561 (1934). and , Proc. Iowa Acad. Sci., 41, 63 (1934). and , Biochem. J., 30, 1001 (1936). and , Biochem. J., 32, 1943 (1938).

Download references

Author information


  1. A. E. Hills Laboratories, University, Birmingham. March 23.

    • M. STACEY


  1. Search for M. STACEY in:

  2. Search for E. SCHLÜCHTERER in:

About this article

Publication history




Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.