Morbidity and mortality among neonates with group B streptococcal infections remain high. As delays in bacterial killing may be responsible for these poor results, there is a need for studies into killing kinetics. We investigated antimicrobial sensitivity and killing effect time lags for penicillin, ampicillin and mezlocillin, alone and in combination with gentamicin or amikacin, against 20 strains of group B streptococci isolated in cultures of blood and cerebrospinal fluid from neonates. A culture of each strain (10(5) germs/ml) was exposed to the antibiotics individually or in combination. Antibiotics were used in the concentrations achieved clinically. Surviving bacteria were counted after 2 h 30, 4 h 30 and 24 h. incubation. Mean killing curves showed that the time interval until onset of a killing effect was 24 hours with either penicillin or ampicillin alone, against 4 h 30 with penicillin-amikacin or ampicillin-gentamicin. The most rapid killing effect (2 h 30) was observed with mezlocillin alone and ampicillin-amikacin. No antagonism was found between mezlocillin and aminoglycosides. Choice of the best antibiotic treatment for group B streptococcal infections should be based on both the rapidity of the in vitro killing effect and the antibiotic's diffusion into the site of the infection.