Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common functional gastrointestinal disorder in western countries. Previous studies on IBS, mostly based on faecal samples, suggest alterations in the intestinal microbiota. However, no consensus has been reached regarding the association between specific bacteria and IBS. We explore the alterations of intestinal bacterial communities in IBS using massive sequencing of amplified 16S rRNA genes. Mucosal biopsies of the ascending and descending colon and faeces from 16 IBS patients and 9 healthy controls were analysed. Strong inter-individual variation was observed in the composition of the bacterial communities in both patients and controls. These communities showed less diversity in IBS cases. There were larger differences in the microbiota composition between biopsies and faeces than between patients and controls. We found a few over-represented and under-represented taxa in IBS cases with respect to controls. The detected alterations varied by site, with no changes being consistent across sample types.