BACKGROUND: Carotid atherosclerosis has been known to be associated with systemic inflammatory status. The present study aimed to investigate the relationship between hepatitis viral infection or vaccination and carotid atherosclerosis in a relatively healthy population. METHODS: A cross-sectional study was performed in 281 subjects (mean age+/-SD, y; 43.8+/-7.2) in the Chonbuk national university hospital. All the participants were examined for the carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) in both common carotid, carotid bulb, and internal carotid arteries. Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and IgG antibodies against hepatitis B and C virus (anti-HBs and anti-HCV) were determined by enzyme linked immunosorbent assays. RESULTS: Twelve subjects (4.3%) were HBsAg seropositive and 6 (2.1%) were anti-HCV positive but the positivity did not affect the mean carotid IMT. However, the hepatitis B-exposure group including both the HBsAg positive and anti-HBs positive without vaccination history showed a significantly higher carotid IMT (mean+/-SD, mm; 0.757+/-0.107 vs. 0.728+/-0.105, P=0.031), even after adjusting for the potential confounders. And, in the subgroup having anti-HBs, the carotid IMT was lower in the hepatitis B vaccinated subjects than in the others (0.725+/-0.103 vs. 0.760+/-0.111, P=0.019). CONCLUSIONS: Subjects exposed to the hepatitis B pathogen, even though they had anti-HBs, showed the higher carotid IMT, and the participants with a vaccination history demonstrated the lower IMT values. Subsequent study in a large representative population might be needed to further delineate the characteristic associations.