Abstract Genetic diversity amongst 21 human gastric isolates of Helicobacter pylori was investigated by polymerase chain reaction amplification and HaeIII digest (restriction fragment length polymorphism) analysis of an internal 2.4-kb segment of the urease A and urease B genes. H. pylori from 11 independent individuals yielded nine distinct restriction fragment patterns but only one pattern was common to H. pylori from two individuals. By contrast, multiple isolate sets of H. pylori from two patients each had common urease gene patterns. Most strains with the same urease gene patterns were distinguishable in their ribosomal RNA gene patterns. The study demonstrated diversity amongst H. pylori and established that PCR analysis of urease genes provided a novel method of identifying isolates. The profiles were reproducible and convenient to obtain and analyse, and were almost as discriminatory as HaeIII ribopatterns.