Carbon monoxide-releasing molecules (CO-RMs) are, in general, transition metal carbonyl complexes that liberate controlled amounts of CO. In animal models, CO-RMs have been shown to reduce myocardial ischaemia, inflammation and vascular dysfunction, and to provide a protective effect in organ transplantation. Moreover, CO-RMs are bactericides that kill both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Herein are reviewed the microbial genetic and biochemical responses associated with CO-RM-mediated cell death. Particular emphasis is given to the data revealing that CO-RMs induce the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which contribute to the antibacterial activity of these compounds.