In the mutual behaviour of such cells, toxins, and antitoxins, and again of microbes themselves, we may demonstrate even on the field of the microscope some of the modes of such actions, which seem to partake in great measure at any rate of a chemical quality (agglutinins, coagulins, chemotaxis).
In the second group, the anti-substance, in addition to combining with the antigen, produces some recognizable physical change in it; the precipitins and agglutinins may be mentioned as examples.
As regards the mode of action of agglutinins, Gruber and Durham considered that it consists in a change in the envelopes of the bacteria, by which they swell up and become adhesive.
Duclaux, for this reason, considers that agglutinins are coagulative ferments.
The phenomenon of agglutination depends essentially on the union of molecules in the bacteria - the agglutinogens - with the corresponding agglutinins, but another essential is the presence of a certain amount of salts in the fluid, as it can be shown that when agglutinated masses of bacteria are washed salt-free the clumps become resolved.
The fact that agglutinins appear in the body at an early stage in a disease has been taken by some observers as indicating that they have nothing to do with immunity, their development being spoken of as a reaction of infection.
It should also be stated that agglutinins are used up in the process of agglutination, apparently combining with some element of the bacterial structure.
In view of all the facts it must be admitted that the agglutinins and immune bodies are the result of corresponding reactive processes, and are probably related to one another.