The effects of interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) on clinical and serologic manifestations of mixed cryoglobulinemia (MC) were investigated by randomized, crossover-controlled trial in 26 patients. The trial alternated 6 months with and 6 months without IFN-alpha therapy (2 x 10(6) IU daily for a month, then every other day for 5 months). In 22 patients, pretreatment steroid dosage remained unchanged during the study. Six patients dropped out (three because of side effects), whereas another 20 patients experienced a significant improvement of purpura (P < .02) and serum transaminases (P < .005) during IFN-alpha treatment. The presence of clinical improvement was supported by the outcome measurements of several immunologic parameters. In particular, serum cryoglobulins were significantly reduced (P < .04) during IFN- alpha therapy. A rebound phenomenon of clinical and serologic parameters was observed after IFN-alpha discontinuation. In addition, no variations were recorded during 6 months without therapy. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA was detected in 91% (20/22) of our MC patients; in 2/13 cases HCV RNA was no longer detectable in serum samples after IFN- alpha therapy. Thus, IFN-alpha could be considered as treatment for MC in patients with HCV seropositivity.