• To quantitate the host defenses of the rat peritoneal cavity, nonviable radiolabeled Escherichia coli were injected intraperitoneally and clearance, leukocyte influx, and phagocytosis were examined. Macrophages (MCs) were present initially and remained relatively constant in number. The polymorphonuclear leukocyte (PMN) response began at one to two hours and was maximal at 24 to 72 hours. A previously unidentified inoculum-dependent PMN response was defined. Clearance and phagocytosis were extremely rapid, and few (<3%) free bacteria were present after two hours. Phagocytic activity of MCs and PMNs was identical, but MCs were numerically predominant initially and thus accounted for the majority of early phagocytosis. Thus, MC phagocytosis and clearance represent the primary line of host peritoneal defenses. We hypothesize that the subsequent inoculum-dependent PMN response may have evolved to cope with those larger inocula for which this initial response is inadequate.
(Arch Surg 1987;122:105-110)