High dose interferon treatment for 1 year is the only established treatment for chronic hepatitis D, but it is associated with a high relapse rate after treatment discontinuation. In this study, patients were treated with 10 MU interferon alpha 2b, thrice weekly for 2 years. Twenty-three patients were recruited and 15 completed the 2-year treatment and 6 months follow-up periods. Treatment response was assessed biochemically [normal alanine aminotransferase (ALT)], virologically (undetectable hepatitis D virus RNA) and histologically (at least 2 point decrease in the Knodell score) at the end of treatment (EOT) and at the end of follow-up. Out of 15 patients who finished the 2-year treatment period, seven patients (47%) had a biochemical response but only two (13%) had a normal ALT after follow-up. ALT decreased from the baseline value of 143.1 +/- 121.7 (mean +/- SD) to 39.7 +/- 20.6 (P < 0.01) at EOT. Virological response was observed in six patients at EOT and in two patients at follow-up. Two patients lost hepatitis B surface antigen. Of the 12 patients with paired liver biopsies, a histological improvement was observed in eight patients. Interferon treatment leads to a complete or partial response in a substantial number of patients but 2 years of treatment does not appear to increase sustained response rates over 1 year treatment.