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Reduced glutathione (GSH), the main intracellular mechanism that protects against oxidative stress, is the subject of considerable interest in viral hepatitis. In patients with chronic hepatitis C, results reported from different centres are controversial, demonstrating either a reduction or an elevation of GSH concentration. The aim of this study was to evaluate the glutathione concentration in erythrocytes (normal range 2.45 ± 0.15 mmol l-1) in patients with acute and chronic viral hepatitis. In 52 patients with acute viral hepatitis (hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection) there was marked reduction of GSH at the beginning of the disease (0.79 ± 0.43 mmol l-1,P < 0.001) with high alanine aminotransferase (ALT) activity(1549 ± 772.9 IU l-1). In 37 patients with chronic HCV infection the mean value of GSH was below the normal range (1.92 ± 0.62 mmol l-1, P < 0.001). In 60% of patients(n = 22), depletion of GSH was observed and 40% (n = 15) presented with a normal concentration of GSH. In 10 patients with chronic HBV infection the mean value of GSH was also below the normal range (1.93± 0.32 mmol l-1, P < 0.001); in 80% of cases (n = 8) depletion of GSH was observed and 20% of patients(n = 2) had normal GSH concentrations. The ALT activity was not significantly different in patients with depleted and normal GSH concentrations (P > 0.05) in groups with chronic HBV and HCV infection.