Acute bacterial meningitis still represents a therapeutic problem. Successful management depends on early administration of large doses of bactericidal antibiotics and adequate treatment of complications, i.e. shock, acute cerebral edema, consumption coagulopathy, convulsions and electrolyte disturbances. Meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis or Streptococcus pneumoniae should be treated with benzylpenicillin. If benzylpenicillin cannot be given, chloramphenicol has remained the best substitute. However, cefuroxime or ceftriaxone now seems to offer an alternative to chloramphenicol. The prevalence of beta-lactamase-producing Haemophilus influenzae strains is increasing and chloramphenicol has replaced ampicillin in the treatment of H. influenzae meningitis. Recent studies indicate that cefuroxime, ceftriaxone or moxalactam may be as effective as chloramphenicol in this type of meningitis. In neonatal meningitis, cefotaxime or moxalactam may constitute alternatives to the present regimens with ampicillin-gentamicin, gentamicin-chloramphenicol, cotrimoxazole or gentamicin. Promising results have also been obtained with cefotaxime or moxalactam in elderly patients with meningitis due to Gram-negative enteric bacilli. However, more extensive studies are needed to determine the role of the newer cephalosporins in the treatment of acute bacterial meningitis.