The clinicopathological features of childhood nephrotic syndrome in northern Nigeria were studied in 100 consecutive patients. The patients presented with gross anasarca and very low serum albumin, which was <15 g/1 in 30 patients. The three most frequent histological diagnoses in 98 renal biopsies were membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (25), quartan malarial nephropathy (20), and proliferative glomerulonephritis (19): together they accounted for 65 per cent of all biopsies. Only nine patients had minimal change nephropathy. Antigens were detected by immunofluorescence in the glomeruli of 70 of 76 biopsies (92 per cent): Plasmodium malariae was detected in 25 per cent and hepatitis B surface antigen in 24 per cent. The disease was characterized by progressive deterioration in renal function and a high mortality rate of 13 per cent. Nine of the 13 deaths occurred within one year of diagnosis. © Oxford University Press 1990.