The rate of change of IS6110 restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) patterns of Mycobacterium tuberculosis was determined in serial isolates from 544 patients. In 25 patients (4.6%), the RFLP patterns of the follow-up isolates differed from the initial isolates. Patients with different follow-up strains were less likely to cluster with patients whose strains had indistinguishable RFLP patterns. Changes in RFLP patterns were more common for persons with extrapulmonary disease and for those who had both pulmonary and extrapulmonary isolates. Based on serial isolates spanning for the most part <3 months, the half-life was extrapolated to be 3.2 years (95% confidence interval, 2.1-5.0). The main implication of this study is that the rate of change of IS6110-based RFLP of M. tuberculosis supports the use of IS6110 typing in epidemiologic studies of recent transmission of tuberculosis.