The beta-thalassaemia mutations in 702 unrelated carriers originating from seven different regions of the Indian subcontinent have been characterized using allele specific priming of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). It was possible to identify the mutations in 688 (98%) of the individuals studied. Eleven different mutations were identified, of which five common ones accounted for 93.6%; namely the ones at IVS-1 position 5 (G-C), codons 8/9 (+G), IVS-1 position 1 (G-T), codons 41/42 (-CTTT) and the 619 bp deletion at the 3' end of the gene. The mutations at IVS-2 position 1 (G-A) and codon 30 (G-C), previously undescribed in Asian Indians, were found in two and six individuals respectively. Some regional variation in the distribution of beta-thalassaemia alleles was noted. These findings should prove useful for the development of a first trimester prenatal diagnosis programme based on direct detection of mutations.