We investigated the population genetics of 23 isolates of H. pylori by allozyme electrophoresis using 16 enzyme loci. Isolates were obtained from adult patients of whom 48% were of Greek extraction. Eight patients (35%) had an active duodenal ulcer. Allelic variation per loci ranged from 2 to 11 alleles. Four major genetic clusters were apparent, having > 75% fixed genetic differences. There was no distinct clustering (clonal structure) on the basis of the geographical origin of the persons from whom isolates were obtained, indicating that this bacterium has not recently jumped a species barrier into humans. Isolates associated with ulcer disease were not monophyletic, with isolates from ulcer patients being found in phylogenetically diverse branches of the dendogram derived from the data. Based on the genetic diversity of H. pylori isolates, we propose that isolates should be classified as belonging not to a single species but to a 'Helicobacter pylori species-complex'.