Antimicrobial cationic peptides are of interest because they can combat multi-drug-resistant microbes. Most peptides form alpha-helices or beta-sheet-like structures that can insert into and subsequently disintegrate negatively charged bacterial cell surfaces. Here, we show that a novel class of core-shell nanoparticles formed by self-assembly of an amphiphilic peptide have strong antimicrobial properties against a range of bacteria, yeasts and fungi. The nanoparticles show a high therapeutic index against Staphylococcus aureus infection in mice and are more potent than their unassembled peptide counterparts. Using Staphylococcus aureus-infected meningitis rabbits, we show that the nanoparticles can cross the blood-brain barrier and suppress bacterial growth in infected brains. Taken together, these nanoparticles are promising antimicrobial agents that can be used to treat brain infections and other infectious diseases.