Summary. Lipoproteins are closely connected to the process of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. The aim of this study was to evaluate the lipaemic profile in patients with chronic HCV infection, and to identify any association between serum lipid levels and viral load, HCV genotype or liver histology. Total cholesterol (TC), high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C), low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) and triglycerides (TG) were measured in the sera of 155 patients with chronic HCV infection and 138 normal subjects, matched for age and sex. Viral parameters and liver histology were evaluated in HCV-infected patients. Serum TC (P < 0.0005), HDL-C (P < 0.0005) and LDL-C (P < 0.0005) were lower in chronic hepatitis C patients compared with controls. Grading score was positively correlated with TC and LDL-C. Patients with HCV genotype 3a had significantly lower levels of TC, HDL-C, LDL-C, higher viral load and higher frequency of hepatic steatosis than those with other genotypes. Logistic regression analysis identified genotype 3a (OR, 6.96; 95% CI, 2.17–22.32, P = 0.0011) as the only significant predictive variable associated with low serum cholesterol concentration. HCV infection is associated with clinically significant lower cholesterol levels (TC, LDL and HDL) when compared with those of normal subjects. This finding is more pronounced in patients infected with HCV genotype 3a. Further studies are necessary to define the pathophysiology of the relationship between lipid metabolism and HCV infection.