Melioidosis, an infection caused by the gram-negative bacterial pathogen Burkholderia pseudomallei, is endemic in south-east Asia and northern Australia. Acute septicaemic melioidosis is a major cause of morbidity and mortality, especially in north-east Thailand. B. pseudomallei is highly resistant to the bactericidal activity of normal human serum (NHS), and we have found that B. pseudomallei 1026b multiplies in 10-30% NHS. We developed a simple screen for the identification of serum-sensitive mutants based on this novel phenotype. Approximately 1200 Tn5-OT182 mutants were screened, and three serum-sensitive mutants were identified. The type II O-antigenic polysaccharide (O-PS) moiety of lipopolysaccharide was not present in the serum-sensitive mutants. A representative serum-sensitive mutant, SRM117, was killed by the alternative pathway of complement and was less virulent than 1026b in three animal models of melioidosis. The Tn5-OT182 integrations in the serum-sensitive mutants were physically linked on the B. pseudomallei chromosome, and further genetic analysis of this locus revealed a cluster of 15 genes required for type II O-PS production. The proteins encoded by these genes were similar to proteins involved in bacterial polysaccharide biosynthesis. The results presented here demonstrate that type II O-PS is essential for B. pseudomallei serum resistance and virulence.