Fever, hypotension and bleeding disorders are common symptoms of sepsis and septic shock. The activation of the contact-phase system is thought to contribute to the development of these severe disease states by triggering proinflammatory and procoagulatory cascades; however, the underlying molecular mechanisms are obscure. Here we report that the components of the contact-phase system are assembled on the surface of Escherichia coli and Salmonella through their specific interactions with fibrous bacterial surface proteins, curli and fimbriae. As a consequence, the proinflammatory pathway is activated through the release of bradykinin, a potent inducer of fever, pain and hypotension. Absorption of contact-phase proteins and fibrinogen by bacterial surface proteins depletes relevant coagulation factors and causes a hypocoagulatory state. Thus, the complex interplay of microbe surface proteins and host contact-phase factors may contribute to the symptoms of sepsis and septic shock.