Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans is a key microorganism in the pathogenesis of several different forms of periodontal diseases. Identification of this bacterium from clinical specimens may often be complicated by the fact that the colony morphology on TSBV selective medium closely resembles that of Haemophilus aphrophilus and a key differentiating characteristic, catalase reaction, may be variable. Recent genetic studies have shown that the 23S ribosomal RNA molecule is split into two smaller forms in A. actinomycetemcomitans, but is intact in H. aphrophilus. Based on this finding, we describe a new, rapid method for identifying A. actinomycetemcomitans in which single colonies isolated from culture on TSBV agar in 5% CO2 in air are lysed, electrophoresed on 1.5% submarine agarose gels and visualized by staining with ethidium bromide. Using this assay, A. actinomycetemcomitans can be easily distinguished from morphologically similar colonies such as H. aphrophilus strains by differences in 23S rRNA within 2 h.