We performed a prospective, community-based evaluation of molecular typing of Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates as a method for tuberculosis (TB) control. We performed restriction fragment - length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of the insertion sequences IS6110 and pTBN12 for isolates recovered from 61 of 62 patients with culture-positive TB in St. Louis during 12 months. Twenty-four (39%) of the 61 patients were infected with an isolate with an RFLP pattern that was shared with ≥1 other isolate, and 11 (46%) also had epidemiologic links with patients in their cluster of cases. One case each of laboratory cross-contamination and occupational transmission were discovered. The patients in dusters were more likely to be younger, black, United States - born, to have substance abuse problems, and to live in poorer areas. A predictive algorithm for molecular identification of clusters had a sensitivity and a specificity of 75%. This study allowed the TB-control program in St. Louis to be redirected toward the affected subpopulations.