Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) is a major human pathogen causing pneumonia, sepsis and bacterial meningitis. Using a clinical phenotype based approach with bacterial whole-genome sequencing we identified pneumococcal arginine biosynthesis genes to be associated with outcome in patients with pneumococcal meningitis. Pneumococci harboring these genes show increased growth in human blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Mouse models of meningitis and pneumonia showed that pneumococcal strains without arginine biosynthesis genes were attenuated in growth or cleared, from lung, blood and CSF. Thus, S. pneumoniae arginine synthesis genes promote growth and virulence in invasive pneumococcal disease.