Bacterial endotoxins were administered by continuous intravenous infusions at constant rates to normal man and rabbits. An initial progressive febrile reaction was followed by progressive defervescence to baseline. The resulting pyrogenic refractory state was characterized as follows: (a) reticuloendothelial blockade with thorotrast neither prevented nor reversed its course; (b) passive transfer was unsuccessful with refractory phase plasma; (c) infusions of normal plasma or fresh whole blood failed to restore responsiveness; (d) a minimum of 4 hours of continuous endotoxin infusion was required for full development of unresponsiveness; (e) circulating antibody titers to endotoxin remained unaltered; (f) peripheral leukocytosis appeared; (g) infusion of febrile phase plasma reevoked an immediate, monophasic fever; (h) endotoxinemia could be demonstrated by pyrogen bioassay; (i) 10-fold increases in endotoxin infusion rates reevoked fever; (j) impaired responsiveness extended to heterologous endotoxins; (k) dermal inflammatory responses to endotoxin were suppressed in man while tuberculin reactivity remained unimpaired; dermal inflammatory responses to endotoxin were enhanced in rabbits; and (l) pyrogenic reactivity to endotoxin reappeared within 24 hours in man; refractoriness persisted in rabbits.
It is concluded that the pyrogenic refractory state reflects an inability of the host to continue to mobilize endogenous pyrogen during sustained endotoxinemia. Such observations, together with previous studies, are consistent with two distinct immunologic mechanisms of resistance to endotoxin pyrogenicity: (a) desensitization at the cellular level; and (b) elaboration of circulating antibodies which assist reticuloendothelial clearance and destruction of endotoxin. Whereas both such mechanisms may contribute to pyrogenic tolerance, the characteristics of the pyrogenic refractory state suggest the participation only of the former.