The purpose of this study was to examine the occurrence of late complement component deficiency (LCCD) states in the USSR. Thirty deficient individuals were detected: 27 with C8 beta and 3 with C7 deficiency. Among individuals with a first episode of meningococcal infection, about 1% had LCCD, whereas among patients with recurrent bacterial meningitis the prevalence of LCCD rose to approximately 50%. This corresponds to a prevalence for LCCD of approximately 12 per 100,000 in the general population. The individuals with LCCD identified in this study experienced about 77 episodes of meningococcal disease and acute bacterial meningitis. Mathematical analysis of the morbidity from meningococcal disease in individuals with LCCD demonstrated that the probability of disease did not change with the age of the patient and was not affected by prior episodes of infection. This finding suggest that in contrast to the situation in the general population, prior infection fails to protect the deficient individual from recurrent disease. In comparison to complement-sufficient persons, the course of disease in individuals with LCCD is less severe, as shown by a reduction in the number of episodes of endotoxic shock and mortality as well as their more rapid recovery. These findings suggest that exuberant complement activation and concomitant formation of membrane attack complexes during meningococcal infection in complement-sufficient patients plays an important role in the activation and injury of peripheral blood cells and endothelial cells during endotoxic shock.