Meningococcemia and purpura fulminans in adults: acute deficiencies of proteins C and S and early treatment with antithrombin III concentrates

Intensive Care Med. 1990;16(2):121-4. doi: 10.1007/BF02575306.


It has been recently suggested that an acquired deficiency of proteins C and S could contribute to the pathogenesis of meningococcemic purpura fulminans (PF) in children. Our study was designed to measure the levels of antithrombin III (AT III), protein C, and protein S during adult PF and to determine the effects of an early infusion of high doses of AT III concentrates on clinical and biological alterations of PF. We studied five consecutive adult patients with meningococcemia (type B) and PF. The levels of AT III, protein C (antigen and activity), and protein S (total and free) were measured at admission and 24 h and 1 month later. The treatment included in each case: amoxycillin, dobutamine and high doses of AT III concentrates. All patients survived and were discharged without any sequelae. At admission, biological data were consistent with severely depressed protein C and protein S levels and moderately decreased AT III levels, without any discrepancy between protein C antigen and activity. After 24 h, AT III and protein S levels were within normal ranges, whereas protein C levels were still depressed. These data are consistent with the theory of a particular imbalance in the anticoagulant systems during meningococcemic PF, contrasting with the usual findings observed during septic disseminated intravascular coagulation. The possibility must be considered that high doses of one anticoagulant (AT III concentrates) could compensate for the acute decrease in the other (protein C system).

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antithrombin III / analysis
  • Antithrombin III / pharmacology
  • Antithrombin III / therapeutic use*
  • Fibrinogen / analysis
  • Glycoproteins / deficiency*
  • Humans
  • Meningococcal Infections / blood
  • Meningococcal Infections / drug therapy*
  • Meningococcal Infections / etiology
  • Platelet Count / drug effects
  • Protein C Deficiency*
  • Protein S
  • Prothrombin Time
  • Purpura / blood
  • Purpura / drug therapy*
  • Purpura / etiology
  • Sepsis / blood
  • Sepsis / drug therapy*
  • Sepsis / etiology


  • Glycoproteins
  • Protein S
  • Antithrombin III
  • Fibrinogen