Thirty-eight Swedish patients with chronic hepatitis C were randomly assigned to receive either 3 million units (MU) or 5 MU of human lymphoblastoid interferon-alpha-n1 (Wellferon) three times per week for either 6 or 12 months. The patients were monitored biochemically, histologically and by quantitative polymerase chain reaction for circulating HCV RNA, during therapy and for the following year. Overall, 22 (58%) of the patients lost detectable hepatitis C virus (HCV) viraemia during therapy but eight of these patients relapsed during follow-up, leaving 14 (37%) sustained responders. Patients infected with HCV non-type 1 genotypes were significantly more likely to achieve a sustained response than were those infected with HCV type 1 (63% vs 10.5%, P = 0.001). Sustained virological responses were also associated with lower pretreatment viraemia level, younger age, absence of cirrhosis and the higher interferon dosage regimens but these associations failed to reach statistical significance. In 97% of patients there was concordance between virological and biochemical responses, and a statistically significant (P = 0.005) improvement in the Knodell histological activity index was observed in the virological sustained responders.