In order to determine the overall molecular heterogeneity of echoviruses (EVs) we performed a genetic analysis of the prototype strains. Nucleotide and derived amino acid sequences from different genomic regions (5'UTR, capsid protein-coding and 3D polymerase genes) were used for molecular comparisons. On the basis of a comparison of partial amino acid sequences from the capsid protein VP2, all the sequenced EVs excluding EV22 and EV23 form a single cluster which is genetically homogeneous. All previously sequenced coxsackie B viruses (CBVs) and coxsackievirus A9 also belong to this same genetic cluster. Similar results were obtained when the 5'UTR or 3D polymerase gene sequences were used in comparisons. When amino acid sequences of the major capsid proteins of EV1 and EV16 were compared to those of previously sequenced enteroviruses, the length of the loops connecting the beta-sheets appeared to be relatively constant in the EV/CBV cluster. It can be concluded that EVs and CBVs have diverged relatively late in evolution.