A new strategy was developed to analyse the polymorphism of the genome of Brucella spp. All species of the Brucella genus contain several copies (between 10 and 40) of an insertion sequence, IS6501 (known also as IS711). The position of copies of this insertion sequence appears to differ in each species and this can be used to discriminate between them. A new polymerase chain reaction test, called IS-anchored-PCR (IS-an-PCR) was developed. It was based on a combination of a primer bound on the sequence of IS6501 with a second primer chosen arbitrarily. The patterns obtained reflect the position of the insertion sequence in the genome. This method can be used to identify Brucella and to discriminate between different species, strains within a species and between the vaccine strain B19 and the corresponding 'wild-type' B. abortus A1.