Parallel to the growth in interest in the past few years in the killer immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) genes has been the elucidation of the presence/absence of these genes and to a very limited extent, the frequency of alleles of these genes in many populations. In the present study, we have chosen seven populations to investigate the presence/absence of the KIR genes and their alleles, i.e. Cuban, Brazilian, Oman, Hong Kong Chinese, Singapore Chinese, South African Xhosa and South African San. The populations were chosen to represent different continents of the world. We show the divergence in the frequencies of these genes, and their alleles, in the different populations. Many new sequence-specific oligonucleotide probe patterns represent new alleles, each occurred in only one of the populations. The KIR gene frequencies of these seven populations were calculated and genetic distances were represented by neighbour-joining dendrograms and correspondence analyses. Also, the presence or absence of 17 KIR loci in the presently studied populations was compared with the presence or absence of the same loci in 56 worldwide populations (available on the website www.allelefrequencies.net). In total, 5134 individuals were analysed and the populations grouped, with some exceptions, according to a geographical gradient.