A previous investigation demonstrated that infusion of an antipyretic drug into the preoptic anterior hypothalamus (PO/AH) of rabbits reduced the fever usually seen during the initial stages of infection. This was followed by an increased fever and an increased mortality rate . The work reported here investigated the hypothesis that the increased mortality was the result of decreased killing and/or increased multiplication of bacteria during the initial, attenuated phase of the febrile course in the antipyretic-treated rabbits. Rabbits were injected intravenously with Pasteurella multocida and either sodium salicylate or a control solution was infused directly into the PO/AH. Infusion of sodium salicylate reduced the mean fever 4 hours after injection of bacteria from 2.07 +/- 0.28 degrees C (S.E.M.) to 0.62 +/- 0.43 degrees C. Rabbits with reduced fevers had decreased blood leucocyte counts and greater numbers of bacteria in lung and liver samples. No differences were seen in reticuloendothelial clearance of carbon, hematocrit, or intracellular viability of bacteria when antipyretics were administered. This increase in bacterial numbers corresponds well to the increased mortality found in previous studies in animals with reduced fevers.