Shigella is a diarrheal pathogen that causes disease through invasion of the large intestinal mucosa. The endotoxin of the invading bacterium may play a key role in the disease process by causing inflammation and tissue injury during infection. Earlier studies have shown that various animal species lacking functional CD14 were protected against endotoxin-mediated shock. Rabbits experimentally infected with Shigella were used to test the hypothesis that blockade of endotoxin-induced cell activation with anti-CD14 mAb would diminish inflammation and thus disease severity. Unexpectedly, we observed that the intestinal mucosa of anti-CD14-treated animals exhibited a 50-fold increase in bacterial invasion and more severe tissue injury compared with controls. Despite higher bacterial loads in treated animals, the numbers of polymorphonuclear leukocytes that were recruited to the infection site were similar to those in controls. Furthermore, the phagocytic cells of CD14-blocked animals produced IL-1 and TNF-alpha. Moreover, in vitro blockade of CD14 did not impede bactericidal activity. Thus, anti-CD14 treatment interfered with host defense mechanisms involved with removal/eradication of Shigella.