Over a 16 month period we conducted a prospective study in a cohort of 45 HIV-positive patients to detect the development of resistance to fluconazole and to analyse the epidemiology of oropharyngeal candidosis (OPC). Each episode was treated with fluconazole 100 mg/day po for 10 days. All yeast isolates were tested for their in-vitro susceptibility to fluconazole. Multiple strains of Candida albicans simultaneously isolated from a given patient were typed by electrophoretic karyotyping. Overall, 106 episodes of OPC were diagnosed among the 45 patients: 18/45 patients (40%) had only one episode, 11/45 (24%) had two episodes, and the remaining 16/45 (36%) had three or more episodes (range 3-7). Cure (complete resolution of signs and symptoms and negative post-treatment cultures) and improvement (complete resolution of signs and symptoms but positive post-treatment cultures) were observed in 30/106 (28%) and 69/106 (65%) episodes of OPC, respectively. Failure (absence of improvement or exacerbation of signs and symptoms) was observed in seven episodes (7%) from four patients. In two of these four patients a significant and progressive increase in fluconazole MICs was observed: from 0.25 to 16 mg/L in one patient, and from < or = 0.125 to 32 mg/L in the second one. Tests on multiple colonies from individual isolation plates showed that it was not unusual to obtain different fluconazole MICs, indicating that, in order to avoid misleading results, one should perform in-vitro susceptibility testing by using a multiple colony inoculum rather than an inoculum made from a single colony. A total of 213 strains of C. albicans isolated from seven patients who suffered from four or more episodes of OPC through the course of the study were typed by electrophoretic karyotyping. Five individuals (71%) were infected with yeasts with only one DNA type, while the other two patients showed the presence of two or three different DNA types. The simultaneous presence of multiple types was found only in one of the seven subjects. Our data confirm the efficacy of fluconazole 100 mg/day for the treatment of OPC in HIV patients. Isolation of fluconazole-resistant strains of C. albicans with this regimen is rare. The vast majority of HIV patients are infected with a unique strain of C. albicans throughout each episode of infection. A minority of patients, however, can harbour strains of C. albicans with variable patterns of fluconazole susceptibility simultaneously.