A number of European studies have documented the ability of procalcitonin (PCT), a novel inflammatory marker, to discriminate patients with sepsis from those with other causes of systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS). The aim of this study was to assess procalcitonin's performance in an Australian intensive care unit (ICU) setting to examine whether it could discriminate between these two conditions. One hundred and twenty-three consecutive adult ICU patients fulfilling criteria for SIRS were enlisted in the study. Over a period of five days, daily serum PCT and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels were measured. At least two sets of cultures were taken of blood, sputum/broncho-alveolar lavage (BAL) and urine. Other cultures were taken as clinically indicated. Questionnaires to ascertain clinical suspicion of sepsis were prospectively answered by the ICU senior registrars. PCT values were ten times higher in patients with positive blood cultures; CRP values were also significantly higher in the bacteraemic patients. Both PCT and CRP had a good ability to discriminate bacteraemia from non-infectious SIRS, with the area under receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curves for PCT being 0.8 and for CRP being 0.82. However neither PCT or CRP was able to discriminate patients with localized sepsis from those without. Utilizing both tests resulted in a more sensitive screen than either one alone, while PCT was a more accurate diagnostic test for bacteraemia than CRP. The PCT value also differed between those who died in hospital and those who survived. Measurement of PCT alone or in combination with CRP can aid discrimination of septicaemia/bacteriemia with associated SIRS from non-infectious SIRS in an Australian ICU setting.