Several studies had been carried out on anti-hepatitis C virus (HCV) prevalence in populations with blood exposure risks and in blood donors. New tests are now available which allow the investigation to extend to other parameters such as antibody type and HCV-RNA. In this study the prevalence of anti-HCV c100-3 and the associated epidemiological, clinical, and virological markers were evaluated in subjects from an urban population located in central Italy. In positive cases the time persistence of HCV-RNA and anti-HCV antibody pattern was studied. For this purpose, sera from 1,484 randomly sampled individuals, aged 30-69 years, collected in 1985 and stored at -80 degrees C were retrospectively tested. The prevalence was 0.87% (i.e., 13 anti-HCV c100-3 positive cases). A significant association was observed with raised alanine transaminase (ALT) levels (P less than 0.001). Paired serum samples from 11 out of the 13 subjects collected in 1985 and 1991 were tested by nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using primers from the 5' non-coding region and by 4-RIBA. Concordant RIBA patterns between 1985 and 1991 were observed in the majority of positive paired sera (7/9) as well as for HCV-RNA (6/9). HCV-RNA was present in sera simultaneously positive to both types of antibody or to anti-c100-3 or anti-c22 alone. A wide spectrum of viral and antibody patterns in anti-HCV c100-3 positive sera was observed in this urban population and persisted for at least 6 years.