An assay was developed for the specific detection of Salmonella enterica serotype Enteritidis, using a novel application of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This PCR assay is based on the mismatch amplification mutation assay, an allele-specific reaction, and can discriminate Enteritidis from all other salmonella. PCR primers were selected to amplify a 351-base pair (bp) DNA fragment from the salmonella plasmid virulence A (spvA) gene of Enteritidis. A single base difference at position 272 is present between the nucleotide sequence of the spvA gene of Enteritidis and other salmonellae. The downstream PCR primer, that encompasses position 272 of the Enteritidis spvA gene, was designed to contain a single base mismatch at the penultimate position, resulting in a l-base mismatch with Enteritidis and a 2-base mismatch with other salmonellae that harbour the virulence plasmid. The upstream primer was completely homologous with the region immediately 5′ to the spvA gene. When these primers were used and the annealing and extension reactions were performed at the same temperature, the PCR assay was specific for Enteritidis; no PCR product was detected for 40 other serotypes and 28 different genera examined. In pure culture, 120 colony forming units (c.f.u.) could be detected; a PCR product was observed from template derived from a 5 h enrichment broth culture of chicken seeded with 1 c.f.u. per gram of Enteritidis. This PCR assay is specific, reproducible, and less time consuming than the standard bacteriological methods used to detect Enteritidis.