The purpose of this study was to investigate genetic variation in the anaerobic intestinal spirochaete Brachyspira aalborgi by partial sequencing of the 16S rRNA and NADH oxidase genes. The spirochaete is poorly cultivable; hence, only six isolates were available for analysis. Additional sequences were amplified from DNA extracted from fixed colorectal biopsies from 26 patients with histological evidence of intestinal spirochaetosis, and from the faeces of six non-human primates (NHP). Multiple biopsies from sites along the large intestine were tested from three of the 26 patients. Sequences from two biopsies were closely related to those of the spirochaete Brachyspira pilosicoli. Eight B. aalborgi-like 16S rDNA sequences were generated from the biopsies from the other 24 patients, and four from the NHP faeces. The B. aalborgi 16S rDNA sequences were divided into three clusters, 1, 2 and 4, with individual sequence similarities to the type strain ranging from 97.49 to 100 %. All human isolates of B. aalborgi were located in cluster 1, as was the sequence of the so-called 'Brachyspira ibaraki'. All four 16S rDNA sequences from the NHP faeces and the two NHP isolates of B. aalborgi were located in cluster 4, which was distinct. Cluster 4 may represent a novel Brachyspira species. Evidence for multiple strains of B. aalborgi or other Brachyspira species was found in biopsies from two patients. In the three individuals from whom multiple biopsies were amplified, the sequences at each intestinal site were the same, indicating the presence of one dominant strain.