Current therapeutic options for hepatitis C are limited, especially for genotype 1. For genotypes 2 and 3, pegylated interferon in combination with ribavirin, can lead to a sustained virological response in up to 80% of patients. Unfortunately, adverse effects of IFN and ribavirin are a major problem and the list of contraindications for HCV therapy is long, including decompensated cirrhosis of the liver and psychiatric disorders. Therefore, alternative therapeutic approaches are needed. New delivery options for IFN and ribavirin are aimed at optimising efficiency and reducing adverse effects. Recent progress in the molecular virology of HCV has identified new targets for antiviral intervention. Inhibition of HCV gene expression and replication as well as immunotherapeutic concepts aimed at enhancing the cellular immune response against HCV are being explored. Solution of the crystal structures of HCV key enzymes led to the design of specific inhibitors including compounds active against the well characterised NS3 serine protease and RNA-dependent RNA polymerase which are currently in the early phase clinical investigation. New strategies for inhibiting HCV gene expression include the use of antisense oligodeoxynucleotides and ribozymes. Immunomodulation by agents such as inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase inhibitors, thymosin-alpha 1, histamine or amantadine are being studied in combination with IFN and/or ribavirin. Immunotherapeutic vaccination with recombinant HCV E1 protein improved host immunity against HCV and thus seems to be a promising new option. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.