The quantitation of serum levels of hepatitis C virus RNA in chronic hepatitis C has been regarded as one of the most important indicators for the outcome of interferon therapy. A new method was used for quantitating the copy number of hepatitis C virus RNA using TaqMan polymerase chain reaction and for comparing the ability and usefulness of this assay with Amplicor Monitor assay in 138 patients. The detection range of hepatitis C virus RNA by TaqMan polymerase chain reaction was from 2 x 10(3) to 2 x 10(8) copies/ml. Hepatitis C virus RNA was detectable in 128 cases (92.8%) and undetectable in 10 cases (7.2%) by this method. The RNA levels measured by Amplicor Monitor assay correlated significantly with those measured by TaqMan polymerase chain reaction assay and the sensitivity of the two assays was almost equal. Thus, TaqMan polymerase chain reaction assay appears sufficiently sensitive for the evaluation of hepatitis C virus RNA and would be useful for the diagnosis and management of hepatitis C virus infection.