Sepsis is an excessive host response to infection; septic shock is a more severe clinical condition. We studied 43 sepsis patients, 32 septic-shock patients, and a group of healthy controls. The patients' Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) and Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE) 2 score were much higher in the septic-shock group than in the sepsis group. We used the comet assay to measure lymphocyte DNA damage; the damage scores were significantly higher in both the sepsis and the septic-shock groups compared to the healthy controls. There was no statistically significant difference between the sepsis and septic-shock groups. We also compared DNA damage levels of intubated vs. non-intubated patients. DNA damage was significantly higher in non-intubated patients compared to intubated patients, for both the sepsis and the septic-shock groups. Early intubation may be beneficial in non-intubated patients who have high levels of DNA damage.