Previous reports in the literature suggest that Burkholderia pseudomallei strains can be differentiated on the basis of animal virulence. Twenty environmentally and clinically derived isolates of Burkholderia pseudomallei were examined for the production of exoenzymes, morphological and biochemical phenotypes and virulence for Syrian golden hamsters. The partial sequence of the 16S ribosomal RNA [rRNA] genes from a number of these strains was also determined. Based upon these observations, it is suggested that highly virulent Burkholderia pseudomallei strains are true Burkholderia pseudomallei strains. The DNA sequences of the 16S rRNA genes of the true Burkholderia pseudomallei strains were identical to the published sequences for Burkholderia pseudomallei while differences were revealed between the published sequences and those of the lowly virulent strains. Thus, these latter strains have been designated as Burkholderia pseudomallei-like organisms since they demonstrate significant differences in exoenzyme production, hamster virulence and 16S rRNA gene sequences.