We evaluated the synergistic effect of zinc supplementation on the response to interferon (IFN) therapy in patients with intractable chronic hepatitis C in a pilot study using natural IFN-alpha with or without zinc. No clinical differences were observed between patients treated with IFN alone (n=40) and IFN with polaprezinc (IFN + Zn, n=35). All patients were positive for HCV genotype Ib and had more than 105 copies of the virus/mL serum. Ten million units of natural IFN-alpha was administered daily for 4 weeks followed by the same dose every other day for 20 weeks. In the IFN + Zn group, patients received an additional dose of 150 mg/day polaprezinc orally throughout the 24-week IFN course. No additional side-effects of polaprezinc were noted but four out of 40 IFN alone treatment and three out of 35 IFN + Zn group withdrew because of side-effects. Complete response (CR) was defined as negative HCV RNA in the serum on PCR and normal aminotransferase level 6 months after therapy. Incomplete response (IR) was normal liver enzyme and positive serum HCV RNA. Both of them were evaluated at the 6 months after the completion of the treatment. Patients with higher levels of serum HCV (more than 5 x 105 copies/mL) had little response in both treatment groups. Patients with moderate amount of HCV (105 to 4.99 x 105/mL) showed high response rates in combination group (CR: 11/27, 40.7%; CR + IR 15/27, 64.3%), better than IFN alone (CR: 2/15, 18.2%; CR + IR: 2/15, 18.2%). Serum zinc levels were higher in patients with IFN + Zn group than in the IFN group. Our results indicate that zinc supplementation enhances the response to interferon therapy in patients with intractable chronic hepatitis C.