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To evaluate whether administration of afelimomab, an anti-tumor necrosis factor F(ab′)2 monoclonal antibody fragment, would reduce 28-day all-cause mortality in patients with severe sepsis and elevated serum levels of IL-6.Prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multiple-center, phase III clinical trial.One hundred fifty-seven intensive care units in the United States and Canada.Subjects were 2,634 patients with severe sepsis secondary to documented infection, of whom 998 had elevated interleukin-6 levels.Patients were stratified into two groups by means of a rapid qualitative interleukin-6 test kit designed to identify patients with serum interleukin-6 levels above (test positive) or below (test negative) approximately 1000 pg/mL. Of the 2,634 patients, 998 were stratified into the test-positive group, 1,636 into the test-negative group. They were then randomly assigned 1:1 to receive afelimomab 1 mg/kg or placebo for 3 days and were followed for 28 days. The a priori population for efficacy analysis was the group of patients with elevated baseline interleukin-6 levels as defined by a positive rapid interleukin-6 test result.In the group of patients with elevated interleukin-6 levels, the mortality rate was 243 of 510 (47.6%) in the placebo group and 213 of 488 (43.6%) in the afelimomab group. Using a logistic regression analysis, treatment with afelimomab was associated with an adjusted reduction in the risk of death of 5.8% (p = .041) and a corresponding reduction of relative risk of death of 11.9%. Mortality rates for the placebo and afelimomab groups in the interleukin-6 test negative population were 234 of 819 (28.6%) and 208 of 817 (25.5%), respectively. In the overall population of interleukin-6 test positive and negative patients, the placebo and afelimomab mortality rates were 477 of 1,329 (35.9%)and 421 of 1,305 (32.2%), respectively. Afelimomab resulted in a significant reduction in tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-6 levels and a more rapid improvement in organ failure scores compared with placebo. The safety profile of afelimomab was similar to that of placebo.Afelimomab is safe, biologically active, and well tolerated in patients with severe sepsis, reduces 28-day all-cause mortality, and attenuates the severity of organ dysfunction in patients with elevated interleukin-6 levels.