We sought to examine the factors associated with bacteraemia and their outcome in children with pneumonia and severe acute malnutrition (SAM). All SAM children of either sex, aged 0–59 months, admitted to the Dhaka Hospital of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh with radiologically confirmed pneumonia from April 2011 to July 2012 were enrolled (n = 405). Comparison was made between pneumonic SAM children with (cases = 18), and without (controls = 387) bacteraemia. The death rate was significantly higher in cases than controls (28% vs. 8%, P < 0·01). In logistic regression analysis, after adjusting for potential confounders, the SAM children with pneumonia and bacteraemia more often had a history of lack of bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination (odds ratio 7·39, 95% confidence interval 1·67–32·73, P < 0·01). The results indicate the importance of continuation of BCG vaccination which may provide benefit beyond its primary purpose.