Evidence has been presented that the fever elicited by intravenous administration of old tuberculin (O.T.) in BCG-infected rabbits is a specific property of this hypersensitivity system and is probably not due to contamination of tuberculin with bacterial endotoxins. Daily injections of O.T. in sensitized animals resulted in a rapid tolerance to its pyrogenic effect. Tuberculin tolerance can be differentiated from that occurring with endotoxins and was invariably associated with the development of a negative skin test. The mechanism of this tolerance would thus appear to be desensitization.
A circulating pyrogen found during tuberculin fever was indistinguishable in its biologic effects from endogenous pyrogens obtained in several other types of experimental fever. This material produced fevers in normal recipients and therefore may be clearly differentiated from O.T. itself which was pyrogenic only to sensitized animals. Since the titer of serum pyrogen was directly proportional to the degree of fever induced by injection of O.T. in the donor animals, a causal relation is suggested.
On the basis of these findings, it is postulated that tuberculin fever is due to a circulating endogenous pyrogen released by a specific action of O.T. on sensitized cells of the host.