Leishmania aethiopica infections in man result in a spectrum of diseases from LCL to DCL. These clinical manifestations have been attributed to genetic differences within the host or the parasites. In this study two different PCR-based methods were used to elucidate genetic variation within the species L. aethiopica. Inter- and intra-specific variations were detected in the ITS of the ribosomal operon in different strains and species of Leishmania, using a PCR-RFLP approach, and by a PCR fingerprinting technique that used single non-specific primers to amplify polymorphic regions of the genomic DNA. Both methods revealed genetic heterogeneity among ten L. aethiopica isolates examined. Unrooted distance trees separated the ten strains into two different genetic groups. This subdivision was correlated to the geographical origin of the isolates rather than to the clinical manifestation of the disease.