We have compared two gastric string tests for obtaining gastric juice for culture of Helicobacter pylori and for nested-PCR detection and PCR-based combined single- and double-stranded conformational polymorphism (SDSCP) discrimination of infecting strains. String test specimens were obtained from one seropositive volunteer for 13 consecutive weeks. The distal 10 cm of each string was suspended in 1 ml saline and quantitatively cultured. An additional nine volunteers with histories of upper-gastrointestinal complaints were given a string test for culture and nested-PCR assay. H. pylori isolates and/or gastric juice from each volunteer were extracted for DNA and analyzed by PCR-based SDSCP. Quantitative culture showed that the Entero-test was four times as sensitive as the Gastro-test but was more prone to contamination by oral flora. However, the two string tests are equally sensitive by PCR assays. Thus, the Gastro-test is more suitable for culture detection of H. pylori, since it is less prone to oral contamination and its shorter length is better tolerated. SDSCP analysis of H. pylori DNA from four PCR-positive volunteers without requiring culture showed four distinct profiles, indicating different infecting strains. SDSCP analysis of strains isolated before and after treatment of one volunteer had the same SDSCP profile, suggesting endogenous reinfection by the same strain.