This study describes the occurence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in the setting of focal segmental glomerular sclerosis (FSGS). All patients with the pathologic diagnosis of idiopathic FSGS between 1992 and 1996 at the University of Washington Hospitals were examined using a retrospective cohort study design. FSGS was determined by renal biopsy in the absence of secondary causes. Demographic, laboratory, and outcome data were collected in a standardized fashion. Six patients (50%) were infected with HCV. Patients with HCV infection and FSGS were primarily Black (67%), hypertensive (100%), had a history of intravenous drug abuse (83%), and had normal liver enzymes. Those with HCV infection and a history of IVDA appeared clinically and histologically similar to previously described cases of 'heroin nephropathy'. We demonstrate that there is a high prevalence of HCV infection in our population of patients with idiopathic FSGS. Although this may simply reflect an epiphenomenon, we propose that HCV infection may play a role in the development of FSGS in a predisposed host.