The level of hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA in serum reflects the replicative activity of HBV. To compare serum HBV DNA levels in different states of hepatitis B, 47 sera of patients with HBeAg-positive chronic hepatitis B, 4 sera of patients with HBeAg-negative chronic hepatitis B, 40 samples of patients after HBeAg seroconversion during alpha interferon treatment, 57 sera of inactive HBsAg carriers, and 42 sera of patients who had recovered from chronic hepatitis B more than 12 months prior to blood collection were checked for the presence of HBV DNA with the Amplicor HBV Monitor Test. In patients with HBeAg-positive chronic hepatitis B, the median of serum HBV DNA levels (8.3 x 10(8) copies/ml) was significantly higher than that for patients after HBeAg seroconversion (6.2 x 10(3) copies/ml) and than that for inactive HBsAg carriers (5.6 x 10(3) copies/ml). None of the patients who had recovered from hepatitis B had detectable HBV DNA in serum. Quantitative PCR proved to be a valuable tool for identification of different states of HBV infection. This technique was found to be a good method for determination of serum HBV DNA levels both for patients with HBeAg seroconversion and for inactive carriers who showed low viremia not detectable by conventional hybridization assays.