We compared serotypes, virulence factors and susceptibility to antibiotics of Escherichia coli strains isolated from 282 patients with bacteraemia. Thirty-five of these were neutropenic patients with haematological malignancy and 247 were patients with a normal or raised total white blood cell count and no haematological malignancy. Strains isolated from recurrent bacteraemia were also bio- and ribotyped. Overall, no significant difference was found between O serogroups, K antigens, serum sensitivity, production of haemolysin, expression of P-fimbriae and patterns of antibiotic susceptibility in the two groups of strains. The haematological patients more often than the non-haematological patients had an unknown focus of infection, recurrent bacteraemia, shorter intervals between recurrences and recurrences caused by identical strains. Despite a well-defined focus, six of eight non-haematological patients had recurrences with a strain different from the strain isolated in a previous episode. A possible connection between shorter intervals and recurrence with identical strains is discussed. We suggest that strains from recurrent E. coli bacteraemia are sent to a reference laboratory for serotyping and possibly ribotyping.