There is a high incidence of chronic liver disease in end-stage renal failure patients on dialysis. Hepatitis C virus appears responsible for 80% of posttransfusion hepatitis, and up to 80% of sporadic hepatitis and cryptogenic cirrhosis. Anti-HCV antibodies correlate highly with the presence of active infection. The clinical implications of HCV infection in patients undergoing renal transplantation is unknown. Part I: We undertook a descriptive crosssectional study of all renal failure patients admitted for kidney transplant between 1/84 and 12/88. Pretransplant sera were assayed for anti-HCV using an ELISA. Patients were divided into anti-HCV-positive (study group) and anti-HCV-negative (controls). Part II: A cohort study was performed with both groups followed from the time of transplantation to the present. Comparisons were made by t tests, chi-square analysis with Yates correction, Mann Whitney test for nonparametric results and multiple regression analysis. Part I: Anti-HCV was present in 76 of 716 sera assayed. There were no differences in sex, age, number of previous transplants, and underlying renal disease. Four variables predicted the presence of anti-HCV: number of blood transfusions; duration on dialysis; i.v. drug abuse, and nonwhite race. Part II: A group of 596 patients was further analyzed. The mean duration of follow-up was not different between the two groups. There were no differences in graft survival, overall mortality, or mortality secondary to liver disease or sepsis. Based on these results, the presence of anti-HCV should not be a contraindication for kidney transplantation.