OBJECT to determine the prevalence of antibodies to hepatitis C virus in selected groups of patients with chronic liver disease. METHODS serum specimens were obtained from 39 patients with chronic liver function abnormalities of uncertain cause (group A), from 15 patients with autoimmune chronic active hepatitis (group B) and from 10 patients with chronic hepatitis B (group C). In an extension of the study, serum was collected from sexual partners of patients found to be HCV seropositive. A second generation ELISA assay (Abbott) was used to analyse the specimens. RESULTS ten patients (26%) in group A were seropositive, one (7%) in group B and three (30%) in group C. Risk factors for infection included blood transfusion in three, intravenous drug use in six (including the only positive patient in group B) and both factors in another patient. Only one of the 10 sexual partners tested was positive but this subject was also an intravenous drug user. CONCLUSIONS hepatitis C virus is a significant cause of chronic liver disease in Christchurch. Important risk factors include blood transfusion and intravenous drug use although sporadic cases occur. Transmission to sexual partners is uncommon. The second generation assay does not appear to give false positive results in autoimmune chronic active hepatitis.