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Meropenem is a carbapenem β-lactam antibiotic. It targets gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria and displays high resistance to β-lactamase and kidney dehydropeptidase I activity. It is especially effective against bacteria responsible for causing meningitis and exhibits low toxicity when compared to similar antibiotics.

β-lactams inhibit the formation of peptidoglycan cross-links within bacterial cell walls by targeting penicillin-binding proteins or PBPs. Consequently, the bacterial cell wall becomes weak and cytolysis occurs. Cephalosporins are less susceptible to β-lactamases than the penicillin β-lactam antibiotics.

Antibiotics are often used in clinical in vitro tests known as antimicrobial susceptibility tests or ASTs to determine their efficacy against certain bacterial species. They are tested against gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria using panels, discs, and MIC strips by medical microbiologists. ASTs decrease the risk of using an antibiotic against bacteria exhibiting resistance to it, and the results are used in clinical settings to determine which antibiotic(s) to prescribe for various infections.