The aim of this study was to determine whether difficult-to-grow mycobacteria are present in human intestines. Intestinal tissue samples were subjected to both mycobacterial culture and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay. After detection by PCR, species identity was determined by hybridizing the amplified 16S rRNA gene fragments with species-specific oligonucleotides. Intestinal biopsies from 63 patients with noninflammatory bowel diseases (n = 22), Crohn's disease (n = 31), or ulcerative colitis (n = 10) were analyzed. Culture and PCR revealed mycobacteria in four (6%) and 25 (40%) samples, respectively. Samples positive by PCR were negative with all probes specific to nine common cultivable species but were positive with Mycobacterium genavense-specific probe in 68% of cases. Mycobacterial isolates were identified as Mycobacterium gordonae and Mycobacterium chelonae. Findings were similar in Crohn's disease samples compared to non-Chron's disease samples. This study shows that difficult-to-grow mycobacteria can be detected by PCR in large and similar proportions of inflamed intestinal tissue from patients with inflammatory bowel disease and intestinal tissue that appears normal from patients with noninflammatory bowel disease.