Enteric bacilli and meningococci (MGC) both contain potent endotoxins, but purpuric skin lesions indistinguishable from the experimental dermal Shwartzman reaction are much more common during meningococcal bacteremia than during bacteremia with enteric organisms. Highly purified lipopolysaccharides (LPS), virtually free of contamination by protein, RNA, and capsule, were extracted by a modification of the phenol-water technique from MGC (serogroups A, B, and C) and enteric bacilli (Escherichia coli 04 and 0:111, and Salmonella typhimurium). Polysaccharides in these LPS were similar by gas chromatography except for one galactose-deficient strain of MGC (135B).
LPS from MGC and enterics were equally potent for the general Shwartzman reaction and mouse lethality, but LPS from MGC was 5–10 times more potent in inducing the dermal Shwartzman reaction. The greater skin potency of LPS from MGC explains the prominence of purpura in meningococcemia. Comparison of the properties of LPS may explain other differences in clinical syndromes caused by gram-negative bacteria.