Patients with Crohn's disease (CD) are at higher risk of hepatitis C (HCV) and B virus (HBV) infection, because of surgical and/or endoscopic procedures. However, the prevalence of HCV and HBV infection in CD is unknown. This issue may be relevant because of the growing use of immunomodulatory drugs in CD. The purpose of this study was to assess, in a multicenter study, the prevalence and risk factors of HCV and HBV infection in CD. The effect of immunomodulatory drugs for CD on the clinical course of hepatitis virus infections and of interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) on the course of CD was examined in a small number of patients. Sera from 332 patients with CD and 374 control subjects (C) were tested for the following: hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), hepatitis B surface antibody (HBsAb), HBcAb, HBeAg, HBeAb, anti-HCV, and HCV-RNA. An additional 162 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) were tested as a disease control group. Risk factors were assessed by multivariate statistical analysis. Infection by either HCV or HBV was detected in 24.7% of patients with CD. In the age groups younger than 50 years, HCV prevalence was higher in CD than in C (p = 0.01). HCV infection in CD was associated with surgery (OR 1.71; 95% CI 1.00-2.93; p = 0.04), blood transfusions (OR 3.39; 95% CI 1.04-11.04; p = 0.04), and age (OR 2.3; 95% CI 1.61-3.56; p < 0.001). The event CD-related surgery appeared to be the main risk factor for HCV infection in CD. HCV prevalence was higher in CD (7.4%) than in UC (0.6%) (p = 0.001). HBcAb positivity was higher in CD (10.9%) and UC (11.5%) than in C (5.1%) (CD vs. C: p = 0.016; UC vs. C: p = 0.02), associated with age (OR 2.08; 95% CI 1.37-3.17; p = 0.001) and female gender (OR 2.68; 95% CI 1.37-3.17; p = 0.001) in CD and to UC duration (OR 1.20; 95% CI 1.06-1.36; p = 0.002). Immunomodulatory drugs did not influence the course of HBV or HCV infection in seven patients with CD, and IFN-alpha for chronic hepatitis C did not affect CD activity in six patients with CD. It is concluded that HBV prevalence is higher in CD than in C at all ages, whereas HCV prevalence is increased in young patients with CD, because of a greater need for surgery. The higher HCV (but not HBV) prevalence in CD than in UC suggests that the host immune response may influence the risk of HCV infection. Although a relatively high proportion of patients with CD showed HBV and/or HCV infections, this should not influence treatment strategies for CD.