The recent breakthrough in structural studies on Na+-translocating NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (Na+-NQR) from the human pathogen Vibrio cholerae creates a perspective for the systematic design of inhibitors for this unique enzyme, which is the major Na+ pump in aerobic pathogens. Widespread distribution of Na+-NQR among pathogenic species, its key role in energy metabolism, its relation to virulence in different species as well as its absence in eukaryotic cells makes this enzyme especially attractive as a target for prospective antibiotics. In this review, the major biochemical, physiological and, especially, the pharmacological aspects of Na+-NQR are discussed to assess its ‘target potential’ for drug development. A comparison to other primary bacterial Na+ pumps supports the contention that NQR is a first rate prospective target for a new generation of antimicrobials. A new, narrowly targeted furanone inhibitor of NQR designed in our group is presented as a molecular platform for the development of anti-NQR remedies.