Aztreonam (azthreonam; SQ 26,776) is the first member of a new class of beta-lactam antibiotics, the monobactams. Aztreonam is selectively active against Gram-negative aerobic bacteria and inactive against Gram-positive bacteria. Thus, in vitro, aztreonam is inhibitory at low concentrations (MIC90 less than or equal to 1.6 mg/L) against Enterobacteriaceae except Enterobacter species, and is active against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, 90% of pseudomonads being inhibited by 12 to 32 mg/L. Aztreonam is inactive against Gram-positive aerobic bacteria and anaerobes, including Bacteroides fragilis. Therefore, when administered alone, aztreonam has minimal effect on indigenous faecal anaerobes. Aztreonam must be administered intravenously or intramuscularly when used to treat systemic infections, since absolute bioavailability is very low (about 1%) after oral administration. Since elimination half-life is less than 2 hours, 6- or 8-hourly administration is used in the treatment of moderately severe or severe infections, although 12-hourly injection is adequate in less severe systemic and some urinary tract infections. Therapeutic trials have shown aztreonam to be effective in Gram-negative infections including complicated infections of the urinary tract, in lower respiratory tract infections and in gynaecological and obstetric, intra-abdominal, joint and bone, skin and soft tissue infections, uncomplicated gonorrhoea and septicaemia. In comparisons with other antibiotics, aztreonam has been at least as effective or more effective than cefamandole in urinary tract infections and similar in efficacy to tobramycin or gentamicin. Where necessary, aztreonam and the standard drug have both been combined with another antibiotic active against Gram-positive and/or anaerobic bacteria. Aztreonam has been effective in eradicating pseudomonal infections in most patients (except in patients with cystic fibrosis), but the inevitably limited number of pseudomonal infections available for study prevents any conclusions as to the relative efficacy of aztreonam compared with other appropriate regimens against these infections. Thus, with an antibacterial spectrum which differs from that of other antibiotics, aztreonam should be a useful alternative to aminoglycosides or 'third generation' cephalosporins in patients with proven or suspected serious Gram-negative infections.