A novel photocatalyst of Ta-doped ZnO nanoparticles was prepared by a modified Pechini-type method. The antimicrobial study of Ta-doped ZnO nanoparticles on several bacteria of Gram-positive Bacillus subtilis (B. subtilis) and Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and Gram-negative Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa) were performed using a standard microbial method. The Ta-doping concentration effect on the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of various bacteria under dark ambient has been evaluated. The photocatalytical inactivation of Ta-doped ZnO nanoparticles under visible light irradiation was examined. The MIC results indicate that the incorporation of Ta(5+) ions into ZnO significantly improve the bacteriostasis effect of ZnO nanoparticles on E. coli, S. aureus, and B. subtilis in the absence of light. Compared to MIC results without light irradiation, Ta-doped ZnO and pure ZnO nanoparticles show much stronger bactericidal efficacy on P. aeruginosa, E. coli, and S. aureus under visible light illumination. The possible antimicrobial mechanisms in Ta-doped ZnO systems under visible light and dark conditions were also proposed. Ta-doped ZnO nanoparticles exhibit more effective bactericidal efficacy than pure ZnO in dark ambient, which can be attributed to the synergistic effect of enhanced surface bioactivity and increased electrostatic force due to the incorporation of Ta(5+) ions into ZnO. Based on the antibacterial tests, 5 % Ta-doped ZnO is a more effective antimicrobial agent than pure ZnO.