Papillon-Lefevre syndrome patients exhibit hyperkeratosis palmo-plantaris and severe periodontitis. The syndrome is an autosomal recessive trait, but the mechanism of periodontal destruction is not known. This report presents the clinical and microbiological features of an 11-year old girl with Papillon-Lefèvre syndrome. Clinical examination included conventional periodontal measurements and radiographic analysis. In samples from 3 deep periodontal lesions, the occurrence of major suspected periodontopathic bacteria was determined by selective and non-selective culture and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) identification, and the presence of cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr type 1 virus by a nested-PCR detection method. 10 of 22 available teeth demonstrated severe periodontal breakdown. Major cultivable bacteria included Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans (3.4% of total isolates), Prevotella nigrescens (16.4%), Fusobacterium nucleatum (14.3%) and Peptostreptococcus micros (10.6%). A. actinomycetemcomitans, P. nigrescens, Porphyromonas gingivalis and Eikenella corrodens were identified by PCR analysis. The patient's non-affected parents and older brother revealed several periodontal pathogens but not A. actinomycetemcomitans. The viral examination demonstrated cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr type 1 virus in the subgingival sample of the Papillon-Lefèvre syndrome patient. The father and brother yielded subgingival cytomegalovirus but not Epstein-Barr type 1 virus. We hypothesize that human herpesviruses in concert with A. actinomycetemcomitans play important rôles in the development of Papillon-Lefèvre syndrome periodontitis.