Monday, September 28, 2015

Historical Path of Discovery of Viral Hepatitis

Historical Path of Discovery of Viral Hepatitis

Posted on September 27, 2015 by David T. Wong, Martin C. Mihm, MD, James L. Boyer, MD, and Dhanpat Jain, MD

This article presents an overview of the historical timeline of the gradual discovery of various hepatitis viruses and the pivotal roles of epidemiological observations, human experimentations, and laboratory research in their discovery and containment.

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Viral hepatitis is an ongoing global infectious public health problem and a major cause of chronic liver diseases, including liver cancer. Previously described as “epidemic jaundice,” viral hepatitis has been known to exist since ancient civilizations. The contagious nature of the illness was suspected even in the eighth century CE. Records from major military campaigns in different continents from the 18th to 20th centuries, including the American Civil War and the First and Second World Wars, reported that “campaign jaundice” caused significant morbidity of the troops and impacted war strategies. Epidemiological observations from late 19th century and research, including human experimentation in the 20th century, led to the gradual identification of a distinct “infectious hepatitis” agent transmitted by oral-fecal transmission, known later as hepatitis A virus (HAV), and a “serum hepatitis” agent transmitted by inoculation or transfusion of serum, blood or plasma, or sexual contact. Experiments that involved feeding and injecting infected feces, urine, and serum into volunteered military personnel, prisoners, and mentally retarded children raised issues of informed consent and mental competency of the retarded children. Only until the 1960s was one of the causative agents of “serum hepatitis,” the hepatitis B virus (HBV), discovered. Further research led to the discovery of additional hepatitis viruses (HCV, HDV, HEV, and HGV). Breakthroughs in the containment of the hepatitis epidemic included development of hepatitis vaccines and recent therapeutic successes for hepatitis C. This paper presents an overview of the historical timeline of the gradual discovery of the causative agents of viral hepatitis.
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Of Interest - Hepatitis Timeline 
The Origin Of Hepatitis:HCV and HBV
Hepatitis C Timeline - First recorded references to hepatitis epidemics, to the 1989 discovery of the hepatitis C virus, ending with the FDA approved treatments used today.

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