To enhance the detection of bacterial meningitis in an East Asian surveillance study, we employed cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) bacterial culture, latex agglutination (LA) and polymerase chain reaction–enzyme immunoassay (PCR–EIA) testing for Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and Streptococcus pneumoniae (Sp). The sensitivity and specificity of CSF PCR–EIA testing was compared to LA and culture. A meningitis case was defined by one positive result for any of the three tests. The sensitivity of H. influenzae CSF PCR–EIA, LA, and culture was 100%, 40% and 57·5% respectively; and for Sp CSF PCR–EIA, LA and culture, the sensitivity was 100%, 58·3% and 66·7%, respectively. Hib and Sp specificity was 100% by each method. CSF PCR–EIA was more sensitive than culture or LA for the detection of Hib and Sp meningitis cases increasing their incidence by 74% and 50% compared to culture respectively. CSF PCR–EIA should be included for the detection of bacterial meningitis in surveillance studies.