An evaluation of the utility of IS6110-based restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) typing compared to a combination of variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) typing and mycobacterial interspersed repetitive unit (MIRU) typing was undertaken. A total of 53 patient isolates of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from four presumed episodes of cross-infection were examined. Genomic DNA was extracted from the isolates by a cetyl trimethylammonium, bromide method. The number of copies of tandem repeats of the five loci ETRA to ETRE and 12 MIRU loci was determined by PCR amplification and agarose gel electrophoresis of the amplicons. VNTR typing identified the major clusters of strains in the three investigations in which they occurred (each representing a different evolutionary clade: 32333, 42235, and 32433). The majority of unrelated isolates (by epidemiology and RFLP typing) were also identified by VNTR typing. The concordance between the RFLP and MIRU typing was complete, with the exception of two isolates with RFLP patterns that differed by one band each from the rest of the major epidemiologically linked groups of isolates in investigation A. All of these isolates had identical MIRU and VNTR types. A further pair of isolates differed in the number of tandem repeat copies at two MIRU alleles but had identical RFLP patterns. The speed of the combined VNTR and MIRU typing approach enabled results for some of the investigations to be supplied in "real time," influencing choices in contact tracing. The ease of comparison of results of MIRU and VNTR typing, which are recorded as single multidigit numbers, was also found to greatly facilitate investigation management and the communication of results to health care professionals.