Molecular epidemiological studies suggest that particular Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains have an enhanced capacity to spread within a community. One strain, the Beijing genotype, has been associated with outbreaks in a number of communities throughout the world. IS6110 restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis was performed on M. tuberculosis isolates from 566 of the 721 patients (78.5%) diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) on Gran Canaria Island from 1993 to 1996, as well as 35% of isolates from 1991-1992 (85 strains). RFLP identification of the family of strains of the Beijing genotype was confirmed by spoligotyping. Medical records of all patients were reviewed and epidemiological links were identified. Of 566 M. tuberculosis isolates from 1993 to 1996 with RFLP available, 72% belonged to clusters. The largest contained 75 cases and was caused by a strain of the Beijing genotype that was introduced to the island in 1993. It was found in 10 patients in 1993 (5.5%), 12 in 1994 (8.1%), 18 in 1995 (16.4%), and 35 in 1996 (27.1%). Epidemiological linkage was confirmed for 68% of cases. This study has demonstrated rapid dissemination of this strain of the Beijing genotype. This genotype might play an important role in the future of the worldwide tuberculosis epidemic.