Escherichia coli strains from patients with febrile urinary tract infections (n=73) were examined for pap genotype and P fimbrial expression in relation to bacteremia and patients' background variables. Most isolates were pap(+) by DNA hybridization (n=51), and 36 were papG(IA2)(+) and 18 prsG(J96)(+) by polymerase chain reaction. The pap and papG genotypes of the infecting strain were shown to vary with host compromise, sex, and age. Bacteremia in noncompromised patients was caused by papG(IA2)(+) strains, but compromised hosts carried a mixture of papG(IA2)(+), prsG(J96)(+), and pap(-) strains. Women of all ages were infected with papG(IA2)(+) strains. Infected men carried prsG(J96)(+) or pap(-) strains and were older, and most had compromising conditions. papG(IA2)(+) strains predominated among patients with medical illness, whereas prsG(J96)(+) strains predominated among patients with urinary tract abnormalities. These findings emphasize the strong influence of host factors on the selection of E. coli strains causing febrile urinary tract infections.