The incidence, concomitant conditions and case fatality rate of Haemophilus influenzae (Hi) and pneumococcal meningitis and of invasive meningococcal infections were studied retrospectively in Sweden (population 8.4 million) for the years 1987-89, the period before vaccination against Hi type b started. A total of 1,019 cases with culture-verified infection were found. The incidence rates per 100,000 per year were 1.8 for Hi meningitis, 1.2 for pneumococcal meningitis and 1.0 for invasive meningococcal infections. The age-specific incidence was highest in the 3-23 months age group for the 3 bacterial species. Pneumococcal meningitis was common in individuals > or = 60 years and meningococcal infections in the age-group 10-24 years. A serious concomitant condition was known in 57% of all patients with pneumococcal meningitis while this was uncommon for the other organisms. The case fatality rate was 2% for Hi meningitis, 24% for pneumococcal meningitis and 10% for meningococcal infections. All 81 pneumococcal isolates which had been serotyped belonged to serotypes in the 23-valent pneumococcal vaccine. Of the meningococcal isolates, 65% belonged to serogroup B. In conclusion, the high incidence of Hib meningitis justifies general Hib vaccination. Development of a vaccine against N. meningitidis group B should have high priority. Furthermore, improved pneumococcal vaccines are needed for patients with predisposing conditions. The currently available pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine seems to be underused.