Acute aseptic meningitis (AAM) affects 10-20/100,000 inhabitants per years in Sweden. Up to the beginning of the 1980s the diagnoses were made by virus isolation and/or determination of viral antibodies in serum. The development of PCR for detection of viruses in CSF samples has increased the sensitivity and diagnostic efficiency considerably. We investigated the aetiology of AAM and the diagnostic efficiency in an adult population in Stockholm, using a limited first-line combination of microbiological assays. CSF and serum samples, consecutively collected in 419 patients with clinical symptoms of AAM in northern Stockholm during 1999-2004, were included. PCR assays for herpes simplex virus (HSV) DNA and enterovirus (EV) RNA in the CSF as well as ELISA for IgM in serum to tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) were performed routinely. A viral diagnosis was obtained in 255 of the 419 cases (62%) with these routinely performed assays. Clinical findings in combination with additional diagnostic tests resulted in an overall aetiological yield of 72%. EV was the major causative agent (27%) followed by TBEV (21%) and HSV-2 (19%). We conclude that consistent use of CSF-PCR for EV and HSV and TBEV serology established a diagnosis in the majority of AAM patients.