Several bacteriophages associated with the oral bacterium Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans have been identified. Lysogeny might affect the virulence of this bacterium, which has been implicated in the etiology of juvenile and adult periodontitis. We have determined the presence of bacteriophage Aa phi 23-related DNA sequences among 185 A. actinomycetemcomitans strains belonging to 2 well-characterized collections and have related the findings to the population genetic structure of the collections. 2 cloned Aa phi 23-specific DNA probes were used in Southern blot hybridization experiments to detect homologous sequences in whole-cell DNA of the strains. DNA from 65 (35%) of the 185 strains hybridized to either of the DNA probes. The majority (74%) of the hybridizing strains showed an identical hybridization pattern, indicating presence of phage Aa phi 23. Whole-cell DNA from the remaining hybridizing strains hybridized to the probes with different patterns, indicating that DNA sequences related to but different from phage Aa phi 23 occur in these strains. The majority (81%) of the strains which harbored phage Aa phi 23 were of serotype a, whereas serotype d strains appeared to be resistant to infection with this phage. There was a clear correlation between hybridization patterns and genetic subdivisions based on our previous population genetic analyses of A. actinomycetemcomitans. However, there was no significant correlation between occurrence of Aa phi 23 among A. actinomycetemcomitans strains and the periodontal status of the patients from whom the isolates were obtained, suggesting that this bacteriophage does not significantly influence the virulence of A. actinomycetemcomitans.