- Background Two distinct ethnic groups live in Southern Israel: urban Jews and rural Bedouin Arabs. These groups differ in their socioeconomic status, culture and living environment, and are treated in a single regional tertiary care hospital. We hypothesized that these two ethnic groups have different patterns of sepsis-related intensive care admissions. Methods The study included all adult patients admitted to the Soroka University Medical Center Intensive Care Units between January 2002 and December 2008, with a diagnosis of sepsis. Demographic data, medical history, and hospitalization and outcomes data were obtained. Primary outcome was all-cause mortality. Results Jewish patients admitted to the ICU (1343, 87%) were on average 17 years older than Bedouin Arabs (199, 13%). For the population < 65 years, Bedouin Arabs had slightly higher age-adjusted prevalence of ICU sepsis admissions than Jewish patients (39.5 vs. 43.0, p = 0.25), while for the population > 65 years there was a reverse trend (21.8 vs. 19.8 p = 0.49). There were no differences in the type of organ failure, sepsis severity or length of hospitalization between the two groups. Twenty eight days/in-hospital mortality was 33.9% in Bedouin Arabs vs. 45.5% in Jews, p = 0.004. Following adjustment for comorbidities, age and severity of the disease, survival was unrelated to ethnicity, both at 28 days (odds ratio for Bedouin Arabs 0.86, 95% CI 0.66–1.24) and following hospital discharge (hazard ratio 0.86, 95% 0.67–1.09). Conclusions Sepsis-related ICU admissions are more prevalent among Bedouin Arabs at younger age compared with the Jewish population. Adjusted for confounders, ethnicity does not influence prognosis.