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Cholera is endemic in Bangladesh, and a regular seasonal pattern of cholera epidemics occurs. We examined the clonal relationships among 103 clinical and environmental Vibrio cholerae isolates belonging to O1, O139, or non-O1 non-O139 serogroups isolated during epidemic and interepidemic periods in Bangladesh and compared them with those of 51 V. cholerae isolates from four countries in Asia and Africa. These studies were done by a computer-assisted numerical analysis of the restriction endonuclease cleavage patterns of rRNA genes (ribotypes). Unweighed pair-group cluster analysis of BglI- and HindIII-generated band patterns revealed 16 clusters. Ribotypes were defined as clusters of strains possessing > 98% similarity. The results showed that 154 isolates could be differentiated into 15 different ribotypes, and strains belonging to 3 of these ribotypes (ribotypes I, V, and VIIIA and VIIIB) were isolated more frequently during the epidemic periods than during interepidemic periods in Bangladesh. Classical vibrios belonged to six different ribotypes (ribotypes I to VI), with a mean similarity coefficient of 0.84, and the El Tor vibrios belonged to five different ribotypes (ribotypes VIIIA and IX to XII), with a mean similarity coefficient of 0.82. A single clone of El Tor vibrios (ribotype XII) was resident in Tanzania, whereas Nigeria, Syria, and India shared toxigenic El Tor strains with Bangladesh. Cholera toxin (CT)-positive O139 vibrios isolated from Bangladesh and India belonged to a single ribotype (ribotype VIIIB) and were > 98% similar to one of the ribotypes of El Tor vibrios (ribotype VIIIA), but a CT-negative O139 vibrio from Argentina (ribotype XIII) was < 75% similar to the same cluster of El Tor vibrios, thus suggesting more than one possible origin for O139 vibrios. Strains belonging to the same ribotypes (ribotypes VIII to X) were isolated from both patients and surface water in Bangladesh, indicating possible transmission through surface water. A clone of a CT-positive environmental isolate of non-O1 V. cholerae (ribotype VII) was found to be closely related (76.3% similarity) to a clone of classical vibrios (ribotype I) and was only between 27.2 and 56.1% similar to clusters of El Tor, O139, and two other non-O1 nontoxigenic clones.