Whole-cell protein electrophoresis and biochemical examination by means of a panel of 64 tests were used to identify 14 putative helicobacters to the species level. The results were confirmed by means of DNA-DNA hybridization experiments and were used to discuss misidentification of helicobacters based on 16S rRNA gene sequence data. The data indicated that comparison of near- complete 16S ribosomal DNA sequences does not always provide conclusive evidence for species level identification and may prove highly misleading. The data also indicated that 'Helicobacter westmeadii' is a junior synonym of Helicobacter cinaedi and that Helicobacter sp. strain Mainz belongs to the same species. H. cinaedi occurs in various animal reservoirs, including hamsters, dogs, cats, rats, and foxes. Appropriate growth conditions and identification strategies will be required to establish the genuine significance of this widely distributed Helicobacter species.