Clones of Group A streptococcus (GAS) may spread epidemically and may be associated with enhanced virulence. Sociodemographic and clinical characteristics, together with bacterial isolates, of 79 patients with GAS infection in the Berne region between January 1993 and February 1997 were analysed retrospectively. Using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, most strains (71%) were found to belong to one of 12 clones. Clonal strains caused significantly more frequent skin abscesses and more severe invasive disease than non-clonal strains. The largest clone (M serotype 1) occurred endemically in non-IVDU patients and caused severe disease in most. Three clones occurred almost exclusively among IVDUs: an M serotype 11 was associated with severe, endemic disease; the other 2 clones, both of M serotype 25, caused epidemics of needle abscesses. Epidemic and endemic spread of GAS clones among IVDUs may be more frequent than previously assumed.