Arbitrarily primed polymerase chain reaction (AP-PCR) and ribotyping were compared in an investigation of an outbreak of Acinetobacter baumannii infections. Twenty-five clinical isolates shown previously by other criteria to belong to two different groups, and nine randomly selected A. baumannii clinical isolates from other hospitals were investigated. Among the strains analysed, nine different EcoRI rRNA gene restriction pattern fingerprints were observed. While similarity was detected between strains of the same group, these fingerprints differed clearly between the two A. baumannii groups defined in the outbreak. Two of the nine strains selected randomly had the same ribotype as those strains involved in the outbreak, whereas the remaining seven strains each had a different ribotype. When the strains were tested by AP-PCR with 0.25, 0.5 or 1 microM of M13 forward primer, 10 different profiles were obtained. However, 11 profiles were observed if two different primer concentrations (0.25 and 1 microM) were used. It was concluded that ribotyping and AP-PCR exhibited a similar discriminatory power, although AP-PCR had the additional advantages of speed and simplicity.