Interferon (IFN) can reduce hepatitis C virus load and even eliminate the virus in 30-40% of patients. Several predictive factors for eradication of the virus have been reported and a higher dose of IFN tends to result in elimination of the virus. However, a small dose of IFN sometimes is as effective as a large dose in eradicating the virus. The predictive factors for such a response are not well established. We retrospectively analysed 50 patients with chronic hepatitis C who were treated with relatively small amounts of IFN (equal or less than 252 million units). Eleven patients were responders (elimination of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and normalization of alanine amino transferase (ALT) for at least 6 months), but the remaining 39 were non-responders. Multivariate analysis showed that the pretreatment viral load and total dose of IFN per kilogram of bodyweight were significant predictive factors of response to therapy. We also assessed the amino acid substitutions in the IFN sensitivity determining region (ISDR), NS5A codon 2209-2248, of HCV in serum samples obtained from 31 patients with HCV genotype 1 b. The presence of more than one amino acid substitution in the ISDR tended to correlate with HCV genotype lb elimination. As IFN is expensive and has a number of serious side effects, our study suggests that the optimal dose of IFN may vary from one patient to another and that more stringent criteria should be used to select the optimal dose for therapy.