In hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, serum viral load is important in the prediction of therapeutic efficacy. However, factors that affect the viral load remain poorly understood. To identify viral genomic elements responsible for the viral load, we investigated samples from a population of Irish women who were iatrogenically infected from a single HCV source by administration of HCV 1b-contaminated anti-D immune globulin between 1977 and 1978 (Kenny-Walsh, N Engl J Med 1999; 340: 1228). About 15 patients were divided into two groups, viral load increasing group (11 patients) and decreasing group (4 patients). Pairs of sera were collected from each patient at interval between 1.1 and 5.8 years. Full-length sequences of HCV genome were determined, and analyzed for changes in each patient. Sliding window analysis showed that the decreasing group had significantly higher mutation rates in a short segment of NS5B region that may affect the activity of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. By comparing each coding regions, significantly higher mutation numbers were accumulated in NS5A region in the increasing group than the decreasing group (0.92 vs 0.16 nucleotides/site/year, P = 0.021). The mutation in certain positions of the HCV genome may be determinant factors of the viral load in a relatively homogeneous patient population.