Meropenem and imipenem are carbapenems which are distinguishable from all other currently available beta-lactam antibiotics by breadth of antibacterial spectrum and stability to beta-lactamases, but can be differentiated one from another. Meropenem is relatively stable to human renal dehydropeptidase-I (DHP-I); it does not require to be co-administered with cilastatin and consequently, unlike imipenem, will be administered as a single agent. In vitro both meropenem and imipenem are active against almost all clinically important aerobic and anaerobic bacteria. Differences in potency are seen but few may be of clinical significance: imipenem is more active against enterococci and meropenem is more active against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Pseudomonas cepacia, Haemophilus influenzae and Proteus, Morganella and Providencia species. The primary target of imipenem is PBP2 in P. aeruginosa whilst meropenem has high affinity for both PBP2 and 3; this may contribute to greater potency against this organism. Laboratory evaluations predict that meropenem will not be seizurogenic, which combined with activity against likely pathogens, identified its potential for the treatment of bacterial meningitis. This has been investigated in a guinea-pig model in which meropenem exhibited potent activity against the common meningeal pathogens and also infections caused by penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae or Listeria monocytogenes. Clinical experience will determine the significance of these differences.