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Hepatitis B virus infection is common in institutions caring for the mentally handicapped. Hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus share routes of transmission but the prevalence of hepatitis C virus infection in this population is unknown. We have tested 101 patients from two institutions in South-East England caring for adults with mental handicap for the presence of hepatitis C antibody, hepatitis B core antibody, and if necessary hepatitis B surface antigen. None tested positive for hepatitis C antibody, but 43 had hepatitis B core antibody of whom 14 were chronic carriers positive for hepatitis B surface antigen. Unlike hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus infection appears to be uncommon in UK institutions.