Numerous viruses are capable of inducing the syndrome of chronic hepatitis. Among them are the hepatitis B, C and D viruses. Out of the most common agents of chronic hepatitis, the hepatitis C virus has been found to be strikingly associated with autoimmune diseases and serological markers of autoimmunity. Conversely, the syndrome of genuine autoimmune hepatitis lacks evidence of previous or ongoing virus infection and is diagnosed by additionally excluding metabolic, toxic, and genetic causes of chronic hepatitis, and by the response to immunosuppressive treatment. This review article summarizes the current knowledge of hepatotropic virus-induced autoimmunity. It focuses on the present molecular and immunological definitions, the clinical and molecular distinction between autoimmune hepatitis and chronic viral hepatitis and the implications for the safe and efficacious therapy of these disease entities.