Abstract Proteins involved in bacterial cell division often do not have a counterpart in eukaryotic cells and they are essential for the survival of the bacteria. The genetic accessibility of many bacterial species in combination with the Green Fluorescence Protein revolution to study localization of proteins and the availability of crystal structures has increased our knowledge on bacterial cell division considerably in this century. Consequently, bacterial cell division proteins are more and more recognized as potential new antibiotic targets. An international effort to find small molecules that inhibit the cell division initiating protein FtsZ has yielded many compounds of which some are promising as leads for preclinical use. The essential transglycosylase activity of peptidoglycan synthases has recently become accessible to inhibitor screening. Enzymatic assays for and structural information on essential integral membrane proteins such as MraY and FtsW involved in lipid II (the peptidoglycan building block precursor) biosynthesis have put these proteins on the list of potential new targets. This review summarises and discusses the results and approaches to the development of lead compounds that inhibit bacterial cell division.