The present strategy proposes a simple and single step aqueous route for synthesizing stable, fluorescent ZnTe/dendrimer nanocomposites with varying dendrimer terminal groups. In these hybrid materials, the fluorescence of the semiconductor combines with the biomimetic properties of the dendrimer making them suitable for various biomedical applications. The ZnTe nanocomposites thus obtained demonstrate bactericidal activity against enteropathogenic bacteria without having toxic effects on the human erythrocytes. The average size of the ZnTe nanoparticles within the dendrimer matrix was in the range of 2.9-6.0 nm, and they have a good degree of crystallinity with a hexagonal crystal phase. The antibacterial activities of the ZnTe/dendrimer nanocomposites (ZnTe DNCs) as well other semiconductor nanocomposites were evaluated against enteropathogenic bacteria including multi-drug resistant Vibrio cholerae serogroup O1 and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC). ZnTe DNCs had significant antibacterial activity against strains of V. cholerae and ETEC with minimum inhibitory concentrations ranging from 64 to 512 μg ml-1 and minimum bactericidal concentrations ranging from 128 to 1000 μg ml-1. Thus, the observed results suggest that these water-soluble active nanocomposites have potential for the treatment of enteric diseases like diarrhoea and cholera. © 2011 The Royal Society of Chemistry.