An investigation was carried out to determine whether early viral monitoring could predict efficiently the virological response to combination therapy of two different regimens in treatment-naïve chronic hepatitis C patients infected with genotype 1b with high baseline viral load. Patients were randomly assigned to receive interferon (IFN) alpha-2b induction (6 MU daily for 2 weeks) followed by 6 MU thrice weekly for 46 weeks (IFN/R group; n = 20), or pegylated IFN alpha-2b (1.5 μg/kg) weekly for 48 weeks (PEG/R group; n = 28), in combination with ribavirin (600-1,000 mg daily). Serum HCV RNA was quantitated at 0, 6, 12, 24, and 48 hr post-dose, weekly during the first 4 weeks, and thereafter viral kinetics were assessed every 4 weeks. The sustained virological response rates in the IFN/R and PEG/R groups were 40% (8/20) and 43% (12/28), respectively. The non-virological response rates were 40% (8/20) and 39% (11/28), respectively. The cumulative virological response rates were similar in both groups. Multivariate analyses identified no independent baseline variables linked to sustained virological or non-virological response. Early log viral load changes from baseline in both groups were significantly greater at all time-points after 24 hr in virological response patients than in non-virological response patients (P < 0.001 for all). On the receiver operating characteristics curves for prediction of non-virological response, the area under the curves (0.951–1.000), sensitivity (90%–100%), and negative predictive value (96%– 100%) were similar at any time-points after 24 hr. For prediction of sustained virological response, sensitivity of 80% with 86% negative predictive value was observed for negative HCV RNA at week 12, with the highest area under the curves value of 0.919. The results suggest that early monitoring of viral kinetics is a useful measure to predict virological response, and might facilitate development of rational and effective therapeutic strategies. J. Med. Virol. 75:27–34, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.