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The Birth of Serological Testing for Hepatitis B Virus Infection

Miriam J. Alter, PhD
JAMA. 1996;276(10):845-846. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540100089043.
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DURING most of the 20th century, the study of viral hepatitis was dependent on observations of naturally occurring disease, usually in the form of epidemics, and of experimentally infected human volunteers, because of the failure both to isolate hepatitis virus in tissue culture and to identify a suitable animal model for transmission studies. These observations initially provided indirect evidence of 2 distinct forms of viral hepatitis; short-incubation infectious hepatitis and long-incubation serum hepatitis. These 2 forms were further shown to be immunologically distinct types of hepatitis that were designated as MS-1 (infectious) and MS-2 (serum).1

The discovery of Australia antigen by Blumberg and colleagues in 19652 and its subsequent detection in blood donors and transfusion recipients with long-incubation clinical hepatitis suggested an association between this antigen and serum hepatitis. It was also demonstrated that the MS-2 serum was positive for this antigen, as were recipients who had been


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