We have evaluated the quantitative relationship between lipopolysaccharide (LPS, endotoxin), fibrinopeptide A (FPA), antithrombin (AT), protein C (PC) and extrinsic pathway inhibitor (EPI) in plasma from 39 consecutively admitted patients with systemic meningococcal disease (SMD). The most severely ill patients with fulminant meningococcal septicemia (n = 13, 6 dead) had significantly (p less than 0.01) higher plasma levels of LPS and FPA and lower levels of PC and AT on admission as compared with the less severe clinical presentations (n = 26, 1 dead). The levels of EPI on admission were significantly (p less than 0.05) higher in nonsurvivors vs survivors with fulminant septicemia. As the disease progressed, the levels of LPS, FPA, AT and PC declined, while the levels of EPI increased. Three of six nonsurviving septicemic patients had levels of EPI greater than 200% within 16 hours of admission vs two of 30 survivors (p = 0.02). The results suggest that increasing levels of LPS in SMD elicit increasing consumption coagulopathy, contributing to the organ pathophysiology. The kinetics of EPI, inhibiting the thromboplastin-FVIIa-FXa complex, differs markedly from the kinetics of AT and PC i.e. increases as opposed to decreases.