Residents of Egypt's Nile river delta have among the world's highest seroprevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. To assess the impact of HCV on chronic liver disease, we studied the association between HCV, other hepatitis viruses, and cirrhotic liver disease in a cross-sectional, community-based survey of 801 persons aged > or = 10 years living in a semi-urban, Nile delta village. Residents were systematically sampled using questionnaires, physical examination, abdominal ultrasonography and serologically for antibodies to HCV (confirmed by a third-generation immunoblot assay) and to hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis E virus (HEV). The seroprevalence of HCV increased with age from 19% in persons 10-19 years old to about 60% in persons 30 years and older. Although no practices that might facilitate HCV transmission were discovered, the seroprevalence of HCV was significantly associated with remote (> 1 year) histories of schistosomiasis. Sonographic evidence of cirrhosis was present in 3% (95% CI: 1%, 4%) of the population (0.7% of persons under 30 years of age and in 5% of older persons), and was significantly associated with HCV seroreactivity. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that past mass parenteral chemotherapy campaigns for schistosomiasis facilitated HCV transmission, and that HCV may be a major cause of the high prevalence of liver cirrhosis in this Nile village.