To resolve conflicting reports about the occurrence of antibodies against hepatitis C virus (HCV) in patients with autoimmune chronic active hepatitis (AI-CAH), sera from UK and Italian patients were tested with the original anti-HCV assay (Ortho) and a novel anti-HCV assay (UBI) based entirely on synthetic HCV peptides. 28 (60%) of 47 Italian patients with type-1 AI-CAH were anti-HCV-positive by Ortho ELISA, 25 of whom were also strongly positive by the UBI assay. 15 (60%) of 25 UK patients with type-1 AI-CAH were HCV-positive by Ortho ELISA but only 2 were positive by the UBI assay. Similarly, 29 (88%) of 33 Italian patients with type-2 AI-CAH, but 0 of 10 UK patients, were very strongly anti-HCV-positive with the UBI assay. Italian patients with AI-CAH appear to have a high frequency of genuine exposure to HCV, whereas seropositivity by the Ortho HCV ELISA in UK patients is likely to represent a false-positive result. These findings indicate important geographical and/or genetic influences in autoimmune liver disease among different populations.