Juvenile hemochromatosis (JH) is an autosomal recessive disease causing iron overload before age 30 in both sexes. JH is characterised by hypogonadism, growth retardation and cardiomyopathy. Linkage of JH to chromosome lq is established in pedigrees throughout Europe. Studies of 29 patients in 20 families of diverse ethnic origin confirm early-onset iron overload. Neonatal hemochromatosis (NH) is a syndrome of unknown origin characterized by congenital cirrhosis or fulminant hepatitis with hepatic and extra-hepatic iron deposits. We assessed 40 infants from 27 families and identified 3 patterns of disease transmission. In 12 of the 27 there was >1 affected infant and in 5 families all infants were affected by NH. In 19 families unaffected children were also born. In 4 families there was bacterial or viral maternal infection associated with NH. In two families, antibodies to DNA or ribonuclear proteins were identified. In 12 families, unaffected children were born to the same parents in the absence of maternal antibodies or infection and without indications of maternal transmission. Consanguinity was observed in 1 family with 4 affected offspring (1 stillbirth + 3 neonatal deaths). Sequence analysis of HFE, beta2M, and both human heme oxygenase genes failed to identify any causal mutations in nuclear NH families but our study points to the existence of a cohort of patients likely to suffer from an autosomal recessive trait. A genome wide scanning study is underway to identify the putative locus.