Coccus Bacteria

What is Coccus

This is the group of round cells. They vary in size as regards species, and as regards the conditions, artificial or natural, under which they have been grown. Some are less than 1/25000 of an inch in diameter; others are half as large again, if the word large may be used to describe such minute objects. No regular standard can be laid down as reliable with regard to their size. Hence the subdivisions of the cocci are dependent not upon the individual elements so much as upon the relation of those elements to each other.


A simple round cell of approximately the size already named is termed a micrococcus (μικρος, small). Certain species of micrococci always or almost always occur in pairs, and such a combination is termed a diplococcus. Some diplococci are united by a thin capsule, which may be made apparent by special methods of staining; of others no limiting or uniting membrane can be seen with the ordinary high powers of the microscope.5 Again, one frequently finds a species which is exactly described by saying that two micrococci are in contact with each other, and move and act as one individual, but otherwise show no alteration; whilst others are seen 9which show a flattening of the side of each micrococcus which is in relation to its partner. Perhaps the diplococci in an even greater degree than the micrococci respond to external conditions both as regards size and shape. It must further be borne in mind that a dividing micrococcus assumes the exact appearance of a diplococcus during the transition stage of the fission. Hence, with the exception of several well-marked species of diplococci, this form is somewhat arbitrary. The third kind of micrococcus is that formed by a number of elements in a twisted chain, named streptococcus (στρεπτος, twisted). This form is produced by cells dividing in one axis, and remaining in contact with each other. It occurs in a number of different species, or what are supposed10 by many authorities to be different species, owing to their different effects. Morphologically all the streptococci are similar, though a somewhat abortive attempt was once made to divide them into two groups, according to whether they were long chains or short. As a matter of fact, the length of streptococci depends in some cases upon biological properties, in others upon external treatment or the medium of cultivation which has been used. Sometimes they occur as straight chains of only half a dozen elements; at other times they may contain thirty to forty elements, and twist in various ways, even forming rosaries. The elements, too, differ not only in size, but in shape, appearing occasionally as oval cells united to each other at their sides. The fourth form is constituted by the micrococci being arranged in masses like grapes, the staphylococcus (σταφυλις, a bunch of grapes). The elements are often smaller than in the streptococcus, and the name itself describes the arrangement. There is no matrix and no capsule. This is the commonest organism found in abscesses, etc.

The sarcina

It is best classified amongst the cocci, for it is composed of them, in packets of four or multiples of four, produced by division vertically in two planes. If the division occurs in one plane, we have as a result small squares of round cells known as11 merismopedia. In both these conditions it frequently happens that the contiguous sides of the elements of packets become faceted or straightened against each other. It may happen, too, particularly in the sarcinæ, that segmentation is not complete, and that the elements are larger than in any other class of cocci. They stain very readily. Nearly all the cocci are non-motile, though Brownian movement may readily be observed.

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