Eighty-three isolates of Pseudomonas capacia were recovered from respiratory secretions from 12 chronically colonized cystic fibrosis patients and examined by ribotype analysis. In 9 patients, the ribotype of the cultured P. cepacia remained unchanged throughout the entire period of observation, indicating chronic pulmonary colonization with a single strain. In each of the remaining 3 patients, two genetically distinct strains were detected among serial P. cepacia isolates. No significant change in clinical condition was correlated with the change in identity of the colonizing strain. In control experiments, the stability of strain ribotype was demonstrated among isolated that had been subcultured 100 times in vitro and among isolates recovered from chronically colonized mice. These data demonstrate the utility of ribotype analysis and indicate that most chronically colonized cystic fibrosis patients harbor a single strain of P. cepacia for prolonged periods.