BACKGROUND: Enterobacter sakazakii is an opportunistic pathogen that can cause infections such as necrotizing enterocolitis, bacteraemia, meningitis and brain abscess/lesions. When the species was defined in 1980, 15 biogroups were described and it was suggested that these could represent multiple species. In this study the taxonomic relationship of strains described as E. sakazakii was further investigated. RESULTS: Strains identified as E. sakazakii were divided into separate groups on the basis of f-AFLP fingerprints, ribopatterns and full-length 16S rRNA gene sequences. DNA-DNA hybridizations revealed five genomospecies. The phenotypic profiles of the genomospecies were determined and biochemical markers identified. CONCLUSION: This study clarifies the taxonomy of E. sakazakii and proposes a reclassification of these organisms.