Haemophilus parainfluenzae is both a human oropharyngeal commensal bacterium and a cause of serious invasive disease. The fastidious growth characteristics of this organism and the poor specificity of traditional methods for species identification are likely to have led to inaccuracies in the diagnosis of infections caused by H. parainfluenzae and related organisms. We report a case of H. parainfluenzae endocarditis in which confusion related to microbial identification was resolved by the analysis of 16S ribosomal RNA sequences. Rapid identification was facilitated by amplification of 16S ribosomal DNA directly from cultured cells with use of the polymerase chain reaction and by direct DNA sequence determination of the amplified product. This procedure is potentially useful for the identification of fastidious bacterial pathogens by reference laboratories.