During a European Confederation of Medical Mycology (ECMM) prospective survey of cryptococcosis in Europe (from July 1997 to December 1999) 655 cases were reported from 17 countries; 565 of the completed questionnaires were evaluable. Cryptococcosis was associated with HIV infection in 77% of cases (range 57.5-94%). Assessment of the laboratory data highlighted the lack of defined standard procedures for the diagnosis of cryptococcosis: the antigen test was not usually used for screening, the disease was mainly recognised when meningitis occurred (65% of patients) and, with the exception of a few cases, the extent of the infection was not investigated. Cryptococcus neoformans was the etiological agent in all of the cases except for six caused by C. gattii and four by other Cryptococcus species. A total of 311 C. neoformans strains were serotyped by Crypto Check latex agglutination, genotyped by PCR-fingerprinting using the (GACA)4 oligonucleotide as a single primer, and their mating type was determined by PCR of the STE20 alleles. Serotype A was the most represented (51% of the isolates), followed by serotype D (30%) and serotype AD (19%). PCR-fingerprinting analysis significantly increased the percentage of hybrid strains to 30%, as 6% of the serotype A and 28% of the serotype D isolates were of the VN3 or VN4 hybrid genotype. In addition, the mating type determinations revealed the MATa serotype A allele in one haploid strain and 28 hybrids, and hybrid isolates with a single mating type (four Aalpha and two Dalpha) were also identified. This is the first prospective survey to be carried out in Europe which has attempted to investigate the epidemiology of cryptococcosis and the population structure of C. neoformans, and the results obtained thus far show the widespread involvement of AD hybrid strains in C. neoformans infections.