A prospective study of 486 high risk neonates admitted to a level II nursery in a relatively poor and rural area of Malaysia was carried out to determine the incidence, the spectrum of micro-organisms and predisposing factors in relation to early onset septicaemia. The incidence of proven or probable septicaemia was 57.61 per 1000 high risk newborns over 1.5 kg. The case fatality was 10.71 per cent. Coagulase negative staphylococci, Streptococcus Group B and Klebsiella species were the most commonly isolated organisms. Meconium staining of liquor was the most common risk factor for admission to the nursery, and prematurity was the most significant risk factor for early neonatal infection (P < 0.005) followed by small for gestational age (P < 0.04). Although the incidence of septicaemia was quite high in the level II nursery, the mortality rate was comparable to established figures.