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Infect Immun. Apr 1977; 16(1): 20–25.
PMCID: PMC421481

Superoxide dismutase in anaerobic bacteria of clinical significance.


Twenty-two anaerobic bacteria isolated from infected sites and normal fecal flora were assayed for superoxide dismutase (SOD). The organisms were also classified according to their oxygen tolerance into aerotolerant, intermediate, and extremely oxygen-sensitive groups. There was a correlation between the enzyme level and the oxygen tolerance, in that the aerotolerant and intermediate organisms had SOD, whereas the extremely oxygen-sensitive isolates had low or undetectable enzyme. Among the oxygen-tolerant organisms, gram-negative bacteria had higher levels of SOD than gram-positive organisms. Oxygen was shown to induce SOD production in a strain of Bacteriodes fragilis grown in minimal medium under continuous-culture conditions. Enzyme levels in this isolate grown under static conditions were lower in minimal medium than in complex medium, indicating that other components in the complex medium were stimulating the production of SOD. Our data suggest that the variation in oxygen tolerance of anaerobes is usually related to their level of SOD. It is postulated that SOD may be a virulence factor that allows pathogenic anaerobes to survive in oxygenated tissues until the proper reduced conditions are established for their growth.

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Selected References

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