A scheme for the rapid identification of Helicobacter spp. using restriction fragment length polymorphism digestion profiles of PCR amplified 23S rRNA genes is described. The efficacy of this scheme for speciation of the closely related gastric species H. felis, H. bizzozeronii and H. salomonis was evaluated. It was difficult to distinguish between some RFLP profiles obtained and often, more than one profile was seen with each species examined. Some evidence was found that the 23S rRNA gene copies of these species may not be identical. Moreover, the identification scheme was ineffective in discriminating these species from each other, although they could be differentiated, as a group, from other Helicobacter spp. The results indicate that this scheme should be carefully evaluated with a number of isolates if it is to be applied to additional, highly related Helicobacter spp.