Localized prepubertal periodontitis has been described as a host-defect mediated form of bacterially induced periodontitis, with an early onset and rapid progression around a few teeth in children prior to puberty. To further our understanding of the etiology of this disease, we have examined the microbiological components of subgingival dental plaque in 9 children with localized prepubertal periodontitis to determine if patterns of putative pathogens existed, and have compared these results with those obtained from 4 children with no periodontitis. Subgingival plaque samples were plated onto a selective medium for Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans and onto a non-selective medium for anaerobes, and the predominant cultivable microbiota of 2 sites per child was determined. The subgingival microbiota of children with localized prepubertal periodontitis clearly differs from non-diseased children in the detection of high levels of several suspected pathogens, including A. actinomycetemcomitans, Bacteroides intermedius, Eikenella corrodens, and Capnocytophaga sputigena. These putative pathogens were found in various combinations. These findings suggest that localized prepubertal periodontitis is associated with specific subgingival bacteria which are generally not found in children without periodontitis.