The objective of this study was to analyze the usefulness of tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6 cerebrospinal fluid concentrations for the differential diagnosis between bacterial and aseptic meningitis in children and in the prognostic evaluation. A cross-sectional study was performed on 35 children between 1 month and 12 years of age with suspected meningitis. Cytokines determination was performed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay technique. The Mann-Whitney test and Spearman’s correlation coefficients were used for statistical analysis. Six children presented bacterial meningitis, 13 aseptic, and 16 had no meningitis. The tumor necrosis factor-alpha concentrations were significantly higher in the bacterial meningitis group as compared with the aseptic group ( P = 0.001) and among groups with and without meningitis ( P = 0.000). There was correlation between tumor necrosis factor-alpha and cerebrospinal fluid leukocytes ( P = 0.019), protein ( P = 0.000), and glucose ( P = 0.038). There was no association between cytokines and complications of the meningitis. The tumor necrosis factor-alpha concentrations in the cerebrospinal fluid were useful markers for distinguishing bacterial from aseptic meningitis and were demonstrated to be useful in evaluating the intensity of the inflammatory process in the central nervous system.