An increased prevalence of patients with C. difficile-associated diarrhoea in a hospital setting suggested the possible existence of an endemic occurrence. A study was therefore designed to determine clonal relatedness among 173 isolates of C. difficile, collected consecutively during 1995 from 147 patients (89 inpatients and 58 outpatients) and to estimate the probability of nosocomial transmission. Arbitrarily primed PCR (AP-PCR) with three different primers, AP1, AP2 and CLD1, was used for fingerprinting and identified 21, 92 and 70 types, respectively. Overall DNA analysis of the combined AP-PCR data yielded 140 types, of which 130 were unique, whereas 10 types occurred repeatedly in 36 isolates from 33 patients; seven isolates were non-typeable by one of the primers. Epidemiological data confirmed that in eight of the 33 patients there was a high probability of nosocomial transmission. Despite a high prevalence of C. difficile among hospitalized patients, a low frequency of nosocomial transmission was suggested by high resolution molecular typing of bacterial isolates in conjunction with traditional epidemiological methods.