The relationships between Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium longum and Bifidobacterium suis were examined by means of carbohydrate fermentation, DNA-DNA hybridization, ribotyping and random amplified polymorphic DNA-PCR (RAPD-PCR). The levels of DNA-DNA hybridization among the strains of B. infantis, B. longum and B. suis used in this study were 67-81% under optimal conditions (42 degrees C) and 63-85% under stringent conditions (52 degrees C). Although the strains showed varied carbohydrate-fermentation patterns, the three species were divided into three types, namely the infantis type, the longum type and the suis type, by ribotyping and RAPD-PCR. On the basis of these results, strains of B. infantis, B. longum and B. suis were recognized as distinct groups within a single species. It is concluded that B. infantis and B. suis should be unified as B. longum, the latter species being divided into three biotypes, the infantis type, the longum type and the suis type, by molecular methods.