The suitability of arbitrary primer polymerase chain reaction (RAPD) as a typing technique was evaluated by comparing it with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to characterize Aeromonas hydrophila strains isolated from a cluster of hospital-acquired infections. Five isolates from patients and 10 isolates from the water supply were compared to 10 epidemiologically unrelated strains isolated from patients and rivers. Two methods were used to prepare DNA and two primers (AP3 and AP5) were selected. The discriminatory power was better with the extractive DNA preparation than the boiling method. The discrimination of closely related from less related strains by PCR using AP3 was consistent with that by PFGE: water supply of Cholet hospital contaminated with Aeromonas species was not the source of the cluster of hospital infections and only two patients were infected with clonally-related strains. RAPD using primer AP3 was simpler, cheaper, and quicker to perform than pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and is well suited for the epidemiological study of A. hydrophila isolates.