In Bangladesh, the replacement of classical Vibrio cholerae by the E1 Tor biotype in 1968 and the reappearance of the classical biotype and its coexistence with the E1 Tor biotype after 1982 were never adequately explained. We have analyzed 23 classical V. cholerae isolates collected between 1961 and 1968, 14 classical isolates collected between 1982 and 1992 from the capital city, Dhaka, and 6 classical V. cholerae isolates collected from two southern districts of Bangladesh and studied restriction endonuclease cleavage patterns of rRNA genes (ribotypes) to investigate the clonal relationships among the isolates. Southern blots of total DNA digested with restriction enzyme BamHI, BglI, EcoRI, HindIII, or PstI were probed, using a cloned Escherichia coli rRNA operon. While restriction enzymes BamHI, EcoRI, and PstI failed to differentiate the isolates on the basis of ribotyping, BglI and HindIII produced digestion patterns that allowed differentiation. Ribotyping the isolates with BglI and HindIII revealed five different clones (ribotypes IA, IB, IIA, IC, and IIC) of classical vibrios in Bangladesh. Strains belonging to ribotypes IA and IB were isolated in Dhaka before 1968, and one ribotype (IA) was again isolated between 1982 and 1992. Ribotype IIA was isolated in 1988 and 1989, when both clones (IA and IIA) of classical vibrios coexisted with the EI Tor vibrios. Isolates belonging to ribotypes IC and IIC were collected in the southern districts of Bangladesh and were clearly different from those collected in Dhaka between 1968 and 1992 by ribotyping analysis with BglI. These results support the previous assumption that classical vibrios were never completely replaced in Bangladesh and also demonstrate the existence of more than one genetically different clone of classical V. cholerae.