Three molecular typing methods (pulsed-field electrophoresis, localization of the mecA gene, and probing the vicinity of mec) have been used for the characterization of 40 catheter-related isolates of coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS) in 14 patients admitted to the same hospital. The 40 isolates yielded 14 different SmaI banding patterns and corresponding unique localizations of mecA, each associated with a unique ClaI mecA polymorph. In 6 of the 14 patients the contaminated skin at the catheter entry site was the source of 4 local infections and 2 cases of bacteremia. A contaminated hub was the origin of 2 local infections and 4 cases of bacteremia in 6 more patients. The remaining 2 patients had positive cultures from both skin and catheter hub. In each bacteremic patient, the CNS recovered from catheter-related sites (tip, skin, and/or hub) and the CNS recovered from blood were identical, but each of these matching isolates was unique to the particular patients, indicating a low rate of cross-infection from patient to patient. Although classical methods for typing CNS (e.g., biotype and antibiotype) are readily available for most hospital laboratories, they have limitations concerning reproducibility and discriminatory power. Molecular epidemiologic techniques can provide powerful support to traditional techniques in determining the etiologic role of CNS in the disease process.