Burkholderia pseudomallei is an environmental saprophyte that has been isolated widely from soil in Southeast Asia and the relationship between environmental contamination and clinical melioidosis has been established. It has been shown that the arabinose assimilation property of B. pseudonrallei is probably one of the determinants indicating virulence of this organism. Therefore, the distribution of arabinose assimilation biotypes of B. pseudomallei collected from four geographic regions of Thailand was studied in order to determine an association between arabinose assimilation of B. pseudomallei and the uneven distribution of melioidosis found among these four areas. A total of 830 isolates of B. pseudomallei (412 patient isolates and 418 soil isolates) collected from the patients and soil in four regions of Thailand in 1997 were tested for an ability to grow on a minimal agar medium supplemented with L-arabinose. All patient isolates except one could not utilise arabinose (Ara-). For 418 soil isolates, 232 (55.5%) isolates were identified as Ara type. They comprised 180 (62.5%), 36 (46.8%), 6 (35.3%) and 10 (27.8%) isolates derived from northeastern, southern, northern and central regions respectively. The ratios of Ara- to Ara, were 1.7, 0.9. 0.5 and 0.4 among isolates collected from northeastern, southern, northern and central regions respectively. The prevalence of Ara- in soil isolates in northeast is significantly higher than those in other regions. This observation suggests that in addition to the presence of B. pseudomallei in soil which is one of the factors contributing to a burden of melioidosis in northeastern Thailand, the distribution of more virulent biotype (Ara-) soil isolates is a factor contributing to a high prevalence of melioidosis in northeastern Thailand as well.