Most past studies of cross-infection with Pseudomonas aeruginosa among cystic fibrosis (CF) patients in the UK suggest that it is a rare occurrence. However, two recent reports of highly transmissible strains in patients in regional centres in England (Liverpool and Manchester) have raised questions as to the extent of the problem and prompted a nationwide survey to establish the distribution of P. aeruginosa strain genotypes among these patients. Isolates of P. aeruginosa were requested from over 120 hospitals in England and Wales and a sample size of approximately 20% of the CF patient population in each centre was recommended. In total, 1225 isolates were received from 31 centres (range 1 to 330). Single patient isolates were typed by SpeI macrorestriction and PFGE. A panel of strains of the common genotypes including representatives of reported transmissible strains was assembled and further characterized by fluorescent amplified fragment length polymorphism (FAFLP) genotyping. At least 72% of all patients harboured strains with unique genotypes. Small clusters of related strains were evident in some centres, presumably indicating limited transmission of local strains. The most prevalent strain was indistinguishable from that previously described as the 'Liverpool' genotype, and accounted for approximately 11% of patient isolates from 15 centres in England and Wales. The second most common genotype (termed Midlands 1) was recovered from 86 patients in nine centres and the third genotype, which matched closely the PFGE profile of Clone C, a genotype originally described in Germany, was found in eight centres and was isolated from 15 patients. A fourth genotype, identical to the published Manchester strain, was found in three centres. FAFLP analysis revealed some microheterogeneity among strains of the Liverpool genotype but all isolates of this genotype were positive by PCR for a strain-specific marker. These data suggest that cross-infection with P. aeruginosa has occurred both within and widely between CF centres in England and Wales. The two most common genotypes accounted for more than one-fifth of patients' isolates examined and transmissible genotypes were found in all but three centres studied. These results emphasize the need for continued surveillance of P. aeruginosa genotypes in CF patients to provide informed infection control policy in treatment centres.