Synthetic tampons and toxic shock syndrome toxin-one (TSST-1)-producing strains of Staphylococcus aureus have been linked to an increased incidence of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). While recent reports attempt to define the tampon connection as the creation of an optimal environment for the production of TSST-1, the role of other factors in disease expression in an animal model remain under investigation. To understand the role of tampons and bacteria, pools of Swiss mice were inoculated with permutations of effluents from TSS strains of S. aureus and Escherichia coli grown inside tampons. Depending on tampon brand, when all 3 factors were combined mortality ranged from 20-100%. In controls inoculated with single effluents, or effluents from growth in the presence of cotton, no deaths were observed. Likewise, when hairless mice were inoculated with exotoxin, endotoxin, and tampon leachables, mortality was 100%. In the absence of any 1 component, mortality ranged from 0-40%. Lethal toxicity can be the result of enhancement, since animal death in apparent shock was observed in all pools containing the 3 components, and in all pools containing effluents of TSS S. aureus and E. coli grown in the presence of synthetic tampons, but not in their absence. A retrospective analysis of fatal vs non-fatal TSS in humans supports the hypothesis of enhancement.