BACKGROUND: Genital ulcer disease (GUD) is commonly caused by pathogens for which suitable therapies exist, but clinical and laboratory diagnoses may be problematic. This collaborative project was undertaken to address the need for a rapid, economical, and sensitive approach to the detection and diagnosis of GUD using noninvasive techniques to sample genital ulcers. METHODS: The genital ulcer disease multiplex polymerase chain reaction (GUMP) was developed as an inhouse nucleic acid amplification technique targeting serious causes of GUD, namely, herpes simplex viruses (HSVs), H. ducreyi, Treponema pallidum, and Klebsiella species. In addition, the GUMP assay included an endogenous internal control. Amplification products from GUMP were detected by enzyme linked amplicon hybridization assay (ELAHA). RESULTS: GUMP-ELAHA was sensitive and specific in detecting a target microbe in 34.3\% of specimens, including 1 detection of HSV-1, three detections of HSV-2, and 18 detections of T. pallidum. No H. ducreyi has been detected in Australia since 1998, and none was detected here. No Calymmatobacterium (Klebsiella) granulomatis was detected in the study, but there were 3 detections during ongoing diagnostic use of GUMP-ELAHA in 2004 and 2005. The presence of C. granulomatis was confirmed by restriction enzyme digestion and nucleotide sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene for phylogenetic analysis. CONCLUSIONS: GUMP-ELAHA permitted comprehensive detection of common and rare causes of GUD and incorporated noninvasive sampling techniques. Data obtained by using GUMP-ELAHA will aid specific treatment of GUD and better define the prevalence of each microbe among at-risk populations with a view to the eradication of chancroid and donovanosis in Australia.