Current methods to isolate and identify anaerobic bacteria are laborious and time consuming. It was postulated that the short chain fatty acids (SCFA) produced by these organisms might serve as microbial markers in clinical material. 98 specimens of pus or serous fluid were analyzed by gas liquid chromatography, and findings were compared with culture results. Good correlations were found for the recovery of anaerobic Gram negative bacilli and the presence of isobutyric, butyric, and succinic acids. 19 of 20 specimens with significant amounts of these acids (>0.1 μmol/ml) yielded bacteroids or fusobacteria. Culture of the single 'false positive' specimen failed to grow anaerobic Gram negative bacilli, although clinical data and Gram stain suggested their presence. 77 of 78 specimens which had insignificant concentrations of the marker acids failed to yield anaerobic, Gram negative bacilli in culture. The single 'false negative' specimen yielded Bacteroides pneumosintes, an organism which does not ferment carbohydrates. It is concluded that direct gas liquid chromatographic analysis of clinical specimens provides a rapid presumptive test for the presence of anaerobic, Gram negative bacilli.
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