This study was carried out with the participation of eight hospitals in Turkey to determine the frequency of Gram-negative bacteria isolated in intensive care units (ICU) and to compare their resistance rates to selected antibiotics. Aerobic Gram-negative bacteria isolated from ICUs during 1996 were studied. Antibiotic susceptibilities to imipenem, ceftazidime, ceftazidime-clavulanate, ceftriaxone, cefotaxime, cefepime, cefodizime, cefuroxime, piperacillin/tazobactam, amoxycillin-clavulanate, gentamicin, amikacin and ciprofloxacin were determined by Etest. A total of 748 isolates were obtained from 547 patients. The majority of organisms were isolated from the respiratory (38.8%) and urinary tracts (30.9%). Pseudomonas spp. were the most frequently isolated Gram-negative species (26.8%), followed by Klebsiella spp. (26.2%). Escherichia coli, Acinetobacter spp. and Enterobacter spp. were the other commonly isolated organisms. High resistance rates were observed for all antibiotics studied. Imipenem appeared to be the most active agent against the majority of isolates. Although resistance rates exceeded 50%, ciprofloxacin, cefepime and amikacin were found to be relatively effective. Extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) production appeared to be a major mechanism of resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics. In contrast to ceftazidime-clavulanate, piperacillin/tazobactam showed poor activity against organisms thought to produce ESBL, suggesting the presence of an enzyme resistant to tazobactam action. This study has yielded high rates of resistance in aerobic Gram-negative isolates from ICUs in Turkey. High resistance rates to all the other antibacterials studied leave imipenem as the only reliable agent for the empirical treatment of ICU infections in Turkey.