The oxazolidinones represent a novel chemical class of synthetic antimicrobial agents. They exhibit an unique mechanism of protein synthesis inhibition and generally display bacteriostatic activity against many important human pathogens, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, vancomycin-resistant enterococci, and penicillin- and cephalosporin-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae. Linezolid, the oxazolidinone which has been selected for clinical development, has near complete oral bioavailability plus favourable pharmacokinetic and toxicity profiles. Results from experimental models of infection and phase II trials reveal linezolid to be highly active in vivo against infections due to many common gram-positive pathogens. The role of linezolid remains to be determined in phase III clinical trials, but it shows great promise as an alternative to glycopeptides and streptogramins to treat serious infections due to resistant gram-positive organisms. Further modification of the oxazolidinone nucleus may yield agents with even greater potency and with novel spectra of activity.