Endotoxin Activity Assay for the Detection of Whole Blood Endotoxemia in Critically Ill Patients

J Vis Exp. 2019 Jun 24:(148). doi: 10.3791/58507.


Lipopolysaccharide, also known as endotoxin, is a fundamental component of gram-negative bacteria and plays a crucial role in the development of sepsis and septic shock. The early identification of an infectious process that is rapidly evolving to a critical illness might prompt a quicker and more intensive treatment, thereby potentially leading to better patient outcomes. The Endotoxin Activity (EA) assay can be used at the bedside as a reliable biomarker of systemic endotoxemia. The detection of elevated endotoxin activity levels has been repeatedly shown to be associated with an increased disease severity in patients with sepsis and septic shock. The assay is quick and easy to perform. Briefly, after sampling, an aliquot of whole blood is mixed with an anti-endotoxin antibody and with added LPS. Endotoxin activity is measured as the relative oxidative burst of primed neutrophils as detected by chemioluminescence. The assay's output is expressed on a scale from 0 (absent) to 1 (maximal) and categorized as "low" (<0.4 units), "intermediate" (0.4-0.59 units), or "high" (≥0.6 units). The detailed methodology and rationale for the implementation of the EA assay are reported in this manuscript.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biological Assay / methods*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Critical Illness*
  • Endotoxemia / blood*
  • Endotoxemia / diagnosis*
  • Endotoxins / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Male
  • Shock, Septic / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • Endotoxins
  • Lipopolysaccharides