Abstract Sera from 74 hepatitis B surface antigen-positive individuals, who presented with acute hepatitis delta virus (HDV) infection which ran a self-limited course in 58 and progressed to chronicity in 16, were tested over time for HDV markers. In self-limited disease the serum pattern varied from early HD-antigenaemia followed by IgM and IgG anti-HD seroconversion, to the appearance of IgM and IgG anti-HD without antigenaemia , or the isolated expression of either the IgM or the IgG antibody. The typical case of IgM anti-HD was transient and appeared with a mean delay of 10-15 days from admission in the different serological subgroups. The IgG antibody usually developed several weeks later during convalescence. In contrast, patients with disease destined to become chronic had a brisk IgM antibody response and IgG anti-HD was detectable with a mean delay of 15 days; generally, the IgM and the IgG antibody persisted over the follow-up time. IgM antibody to HDV is often the only serological test positive in the clinical stage of hepatitis D and repeated testing for this marker is necessary to diagnose acute HDV co-infection. The serological follow-up provides important prognostic information: waning of IgM confirms resolution of HDV infection, persistence predicts chronicity.