During 1991 to 1998 at least one Stenotrophomonas maltophilia pulmonary infection was observed in 25 (24%) of 104 cystic fibrosis patients at the same unit of our hospital in Spain. Ribotyping and pulse-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) characterization of 76 S. maltophilia isolates from these patients indicated an overall clonal incidence of 47.1%, reflecting new strains in 44% of patients with repeated positive cultures for S. maltophilia. Six patients with repeated episodes were persistently colonized (> or = 6 months) with the same strain. S. maltophilia bacterial counts were higher (geometric mean, 2.9 x 10(8) cfu/mL) in patients with repeated episodes than in those with a single episode (8.4 x 10(4) cfu/mL, p < 0.01). Single episodes of S. maltophilia occurred in patients < 10 years of age (43% [6/14]), whereas chronic colonization occurred more frequently in older patients (> 16 years of age).