A nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test targeting Aspergillus spp. large ribosomal subunit genes was evaluated retrospectively on 175 serum samples from 37 bone marrow transplant recipients, 70% of whom received grafts from unrelated donors. Six patients had proven infection, seven had probable infection, and three had possible infection, using the revised EORTC case definitions. These 16 patients were all PCR positive (57 out of 93 samples tested). Two additional patients who did not fulfil current diagnostic criteria, but in whom invasive aspergillosis (IA) was thought clinically probable, were also PCR positive (five out of nine samples). Invasive aspergillosis was unlikely in the remaining 19 patients, four of whom were PCR positive on a single occasion (four out of 70 samples). Three samples were inhibitory to PCR. Sensitivity of PCR in diagnosing patients with IA was 100%, specificity was 79% and positive predictive value was 80%, using the criterion of a single positive result. If two positive results were required, these values were 81%, 100% and 100% respectively. The median duration of infection documented by PCR was 36 days (range 3-248 days) in 17 out of 18 patients (94%) who did not survive. Positive PCR results predated the institution of antifungal therapy in two-thirds of patients. Four patients became PCR positive during pretransplant conditioning therapy.