A high biodiversity of Cryptococcus neoformans isolates is known to exist in some Brazilian urban areas, raising the possibility that patients may encounter multiple inoculum sources in their daily life. C. neoformans isolates from two groups of AIDS patients with cryptococcosis from Rio de Janeiro were studied by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) fingerprinting and randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analysis. The first group contained 60 serial isolates obtained from 19 patients over periods ranging from 18 to 461 days; the intent was to determine whether the original strain persisted or whether reinfection with a new strain occurred. The second group was made up of 22 isolates from 11 patients, and consisted of a pair of isolates collected from blood and cerebrospinal fluid from each patient either before or shortly after treatment was initiated. The aim was to determine if the patient was infected by different strains simultaneously. All isolates were subtyped by PCR fingerprinting, using minisatellite (M13), and microsatellite [(GACA)4 and (GTG)5] specific primers, and RAPD analysis employing the combined primers 5SOR and CN1. The majority of isolates were C. neoformans var. grubii, specifically, molecular types VNI or VNII, but numerous distinguishable subtypes were found. Only three isolates were C. n. var. gattii (molecular types VGI or VGII). Except in two cases, all isolates obtained from the same patient showed identical PCR profiles independent of time of isolation or body site. Almost all patients, however, carried unique genotypes not found in any other patient. Our results confirm that persistent cryptococcal infection is caused by relapse rather than reinfection, but they also show that in exceptional cases, patients may be infected with more than one C. neoformans strain.