Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is a cytokine playing a critical role in the pathophysiology of experimental sepsis. The purpose of this study was to determine the levels of MIF and to compare those to interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels in predicting mortality among critically ill patients with sepsis. The levels of MIF and IL-6 were measured in 25 patients with septic shock, 17 patients with sepsis, and 11 healthy volunteers. The median plasma concentrations of MIF and IL-6 were significantly higher in patients with septic shock and in patients with sepsis than in healthy controls. MIF levels were significantly different between survivors and nonsurvivors, as were IL-6 levels. Discriminatory power in predicting mortality, as assessed by the areas under receiver operating characteristic curves (AUROC), was 0.793 for MIF and 0.680 for IL-6. Finally, high plasma levels of MIF (>1100 pg/mL) had a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 64% to identify the patients who eventually would evolve to a fatal outcome. Thus, our data suggest that an elevated MIF level in recently diagnosed septic patients appears to be an early indicator of poor outcome and a potential entry criterion for future studies with therapeutic intervention aiming at MIF neutralization.