Fifty-one fluorescence-positive black-pigmented Bacteroides strains obtained from 51 patients with deep periodontal pockets (greater than 6 mm) were identified and characterized. Fifty of these strains were presumptively identified as Bacteroides intermedius according to the indole reaction. This was confirmed by further biochemical characterization. The 50 strains from diseased sites were then compared with 16 B. intermedius strains isolated from periodontally healthy individuals with no signs of destructive periodontal disease. Tests for antimicrobial susceptibility showed similar patterns for all 50 pocket-derived strains, except for one beta-lactamase-positive strain that was resistant to penicillin G and ampicillin. Forty-seven strains were tested for binding of three monoclonal antibodies defining three distinct serogroups of B. intermedius. Thirty-one strains belonged to serogroup I, three to serogroup II and thirteen to serogroup III. In comparison to the strains from the shallow periodontal pockets, serogroup I was significantly overrepresented in the patient group with periodontal disease. We conclude that saccharolytic black-pigmented Bacteroides species from deep periodontal pockets constituted, with very rare exceptions, a biochemically homogeneous but antigenically heterogeneous group of B. intermedius and that serogroup I is predominantly found in deep periodontal lesions.