In addition to conventional biochemical tests, a DNA probe specific for Corynebacterium diphtheriae was used to characterize 53 cystinase-positive and urease-negative corynebacteria strains isolated from pharyngeal and nasal swabs obtained from 515 healthy adults living in an urban area of central Italy. No Corynebacterium diphtheriae strain was found. Six “atypical” strains were isolated, which could not be classified in any of the species so far defined in the Corynebacterium genus. These strains appeared to be biochemically close to Corynebacterium pseudodiphtheriticum and genetically close to Corynebacterium diphtheriae, since their DNAs strongly hybridized, under relatively low stringency conditions, with a Corynebacterium diphtheriae-specific probe and since insertion sequences which are usually found in Corynebacterium diphtheriae genomes were also found to be present in their genomes. No one of these six strains was either toxigenic or susceptible to lysogenization by β-corynephage carrying the tox gene. Therefore, they do not seem to have any epidemiological relevance as possible hosts for β-phages.