The presence of Helicobacter pylori in the oral cavity (6 sites), oesophagus, stomach and bowel of 20 dyspeptic patients was investigated. Samples were cultured on three selective media and analyzed by 16S rDNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and southern hybridization. Helicobacter pylori DNA was detected by PCR from oral-cavity samples of three (20%) and from faeces samples of only one (7%) of the patients whose stomach biopsies were positive for Helicobacter pylori. When culture was used, the microorganism's rate of recovery from the oral cavity and faeces was 13% and 7%, respectively. One patient had a Helicobacter pylori-like organism in samples collected from the tongue and palate. Both strains were urease, catalase and oxidase positive and grew microaerophilically but were negative on PCR analysis. This demonstrates the possibility of false identification of Helicobacter pylori by use of routine enzyme reactions. Interestingly, specimens collected from the cheeks of three patients were positive for Helicobacter pylori by PCR analysis. This is the first instance of detection of this microorganism in the cheek.