Penicillin resistance among Streptococcus pneumoniae isolates has rapidly emerged in Poland during the last decade and has reached prevalence levels of up to 14.4% in 1997. In order to investigate the nature of this increase, a molecular epidemiological analysis of non-penicillin-susceptible multidrug-resistant pneumococci isolated in 1995 and 1996 was conducted. Thirty-seven patients who suffered mainly from upper respiratory tract infections and pneumococcal pneumonia were enrolled in this study. The medical centers to which the patients were admitted were located in 16 Polish towns across the country. Eight distinct BOX PCR types were observed, representing 14 subtypes. Restriction fragment end labeling (RFEL) analysis divided the pneumococcal strains into 16 distinct types. By combining the BOX PCR and RFEL data, four genetically distinct clusters of strains were identified. Two clusters represented the genetic clones 23F and 9V, which have recently emerged all over the world. The two other genetic clusters, which represented serotypes 23F and 6B, clearly predominated in the analyzed collection of Polish non-penicillin-susceptible pneumococcal strains. Since the latter clusters did not match any of the 133 RFEL types of non-penicillin-susceptible pneumococci collected in 15 other countries, their Polish clonal origin is most likely.