The incidence of bacteraemia in relation to the degree of transfusional iron overload was studied prospectively in patients from one haemodialysis unit over a 2-year period, with a total follow-up of 181.3 patient-years in 158 patients. Every 3 months, the patients were classified according to the serum ferritin in one of three groups: less than 500, 500-1000 or greater than 1000 micrograms/l. Twenty-nine episodes of bacteraemia were recorded over 181.3 patient-years (yearly incidence of 0.160). The yearly incidence of bacteraemia was 0.1173 and 0.1101 for ferritin less than 500 and 500-1000 micrograms/l (no significant difference), with a cumulative incidence for both groups of 0.1164. In the ferritin greater than 1000 micrograms/l group, the incidence was 0.3404 (P less than or equal to 0.005 versus the ferritin less than or equal to 1000 micrograms/l group). After stratification for patient's age (at inclusion in the study) and duration of haemodialysis therapy, the higher incidence of bacteraemia in the ferritin greater than 1000 versus less than or equal to 1000 micrograms/l groups persisted (P less than or equal to 0.005). This prospective study confirms previous retrospective studies in showing that acquired transfusional iron overload in haemodialysis is associated with a greater risk of bacteraemia.