Background: There is growing interest in the potential utility of molecular diagnostics in improving the detection of life-threatening infection (sepsis). LightCycler® SeptiFast is a multipathogen probebased real-time PCR system targeting DNA sequences of bacteria and fungi present in blood samples within a few hours. We report here the protocol of the first systematic review of published clinical diagnostic accuracy studies of this technology when compared with blood culture in the setting of suspected sepsis. Methods/design: Data sources: the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE), the Health Technology Assessment Database (HTA), the NHS Economic Evaluation Database (NHSEED), The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, ISI Web of Science, BIOSIS Previews, MEDION and the Aggressive Research Intelligence Facility Database (ARIF). Study selection: diagnostic accuracy studies that compare the real-time PCR technology with standard culture results performed on a patient's blood sample during the management of sepsis. Data extraction: three reviewers, working independently, will determine the level of evidence, methodological quality and a standard data set relating to demographics and diagnostic accuracy metrics for each study. Statistical analysis/data synthesis: heterogeneity of studies will be investigated using a coupled forest plot of sensitivity and specificity and a scatter plot in Receiver Operator Characteristic (ROC) space. Bivariate model method will be used to estimate summary sensitivity and specificity. The authors will investigate reporting biases using funnel plots based on effective sample size and regression tests of asymmetry. Subgroup analyses are planned for adults, children and infection setting (hospital vs community) if sufficient data are uncovered. Dissemination: Recommendations will be made to the Department of Health (as part of an open-access HTA report) as to whether the real-time PCR technology has sufficient clinical diagnostic accuracy potential to move forward to efficacy testing during the provision of routine clinical care.