Rapid diagnosis of meningococcal disease followed by early treatment is essential. However, culture of blood or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) may be unsuccessful because antibiotic treatment is often started before adequate specimens are collected, and because bacteria may die during transportation to the laboratory. We have used the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect meningococcal DNA in a culture-negative CSF of a 15-year-old girl with meningococcal disease. Two oligonucleotides flanking the dihydropteroate synthase gene (dhps) of Neisseria meningitidis were used as primers. The PCR reaction is a rapid technique for the early detection of meningococcal meningitis, and also when culture is negative.