The aim of the present work was to develop polymerase chain reactions (PCRs) based on the conserved nucleotide sequence of the 16S rRNA gene for detection of bacteria of the Helicobacter genus in human antral biopsy samples. The assay for Helicobacter spp was developed by amplifying a 399-bp 16S rRNA gene sequence specific to the genus Helicobacter. The identity of the amplicon was confirmed by hybridization with an internal probe and by restriction by endonuclease VspI showing two expected fragments of 295 and 104 base pairs. A total of 65 dyspeptic patients from France and New Caledonia were screened for Helicobacter spp infection through the use of the following diagnostic assays on biopsy specimens collected through endoscopy: direct detection of bacteria in histological sections by Giemsa and Warthin Starry staining, urease test and bacterial isolation, PCR for Helicobacter pylori ureC/glmM gene, and PCR targeted to 16S rRNA genes. The 16S rRNA gene PCR assay was able to detect down to 680 bacterial cells, as assessed by agarose gel electrophoresis, and down to 4 bacterial cells by hybridization of amplicon with the internal probe. The 16S rRNA PCR test was 100% specific and sensitive; results obtained with this test were in agreement with the visualization of bacteria by histology. Urease test and culture were 86.4% and 22.7% sensitive, and 96.5 and 100% specific, respectively. The H. pylori ureC/glmM gene-based PCR was 100% specific and only 95.4% sensitive, since one biopsy from a Melanesian patient contained a Helicobacter strain other than H. pylori. For this Melanesian patient, a branch-specific PCR targeting the epsilon branch of Proteobacteria was used to amplify a 967-bp amplicon. This amplicon was sequenced and matched with the H. felis sequence. This was confirmed using an H. felis-specific urease PCR test.