The prophylactic effect of antibody to endotoxin core glycolipid was studied in surgical patients at high risk of gram-negative infection. At randomisation (on admission to intensive care unit), every 5 days thereafter, and at onset of septic shock, patients received plasma taken from donors before (control) or after immunisation with Escherichia coli J5, a mutant with only core determinants in its endotoxin. Gram-negative shock occurred in 15 of 136 controls and 6 of 126 J5 antibody recipients and related deaths in 9 of 136 and 2 of 126, respectively. J5 antibody was most effective in abdominal surgery patients, in whom shock occurred in 13 of 83 controls and 2 of 71 antibody recipients. Although antibody prophylaxis did not lower the infection rate, it prevented the serious consequences of gram-negative infections and thus improved the overall prognosis.