The serum concentration of soluble urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (suPAR) reflects immune activation. We performed a meta-analysis to evaluate the usefulness of suPAR for the diagnosis and prognosis of bacterial infections. PubMed, Embase and Cochrane Library databases were searched for studies reporting the detection of suPAR in adult patients with bacterial infections. Seventeen studies were selected from 671 studies. The pooled sensitivity and specificity of suPAR for diagnosing infection were 0.73 and 0.79, respectively, and the area under the summary receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) was 0.82. Subgroup analyses revealed suPAR showed similar AUC values for diagnosing sepsis and bacteremia, but the AUC for differentiating sepsis from systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) was only 0.68. Elevated suPAR levels were significantly associated with a high risk of death, with a pooled risk ratio of 3.37 (95% confidence interval, 2.60-4.38). The pooled sensitivity and specificity for predicting mortality were 0.70 and 0.72, respectivfely, with an AUC of 0.77. Serum suPAR could be a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of bacterial infection, but it is relatively ineffective for differentiating sepsis from SIRS. Further investigation is required to evaluate whether using of suPAR in combination with other biomarkers can improve diagnostic efficacy.