The therapeutic crisis produced by emerging antimicrobial resistances has compromised the chemotherapy of hospitalized patients with serious infections. For the most prevalent resistance problems, meropenem, a new carbapenem, appears to provide a potency and spectrum for: 1) extended-spectrum beta-lactamase-producing Enterobacteriaceae; 2) Bush-Jacoby-Merdeiros group 1 enzyme-producing ceftazidime-resistant Enterobacter spp., Citrobacter freundii, and some Serratia spp.; 3) ceftazidime- and imipenem-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa; and 4) some Streptococcus spp. with elevated penicillin MICs. Documented in vitro study results using 1997 gram-negative blood stream infection isolates indicate a wider spectrum and a two- to fourfold greater potency for meropenem compared with imipenem. This was especially true for P. aeruginosa where 93.4% of strains were susceptible to meropenem (84.1% for imipenem). Also among over 30,000 reported in vitro meropenem results from the United States and Europe, 90.6% of gram-positive cocci and 99.1% of anaerobes were inhibited at < or = 4 microg/ml. Over 90% of ceftazidime-resistant blood stream infection strains were meropenem susceptible, a rate greater than those of imipenem, ciprofloxacin, and gentamicin. As the clinical utility of many contemporary antimicrobial agents is challenged by emerging resistance, the carbapenems (meropenem, imipenem) appear positioned for a greater role in the treatment of infections in hospitalized patients.