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The Discovery of Hepatitis Viruses: Agents and Disease.

Khuroo MS, Sofi AA. The Discovery of Hepatitis Viruses: Agents and Disease. J Clin Exp Hepatol. 2020 Jul-Aug;10(4):391-401. doi: 10.1016/j.jceh.2020.04.006. Epub 2020 Apr 20. PMID: 32655240; PMCID: PMC7335725.

“The path traversed in the discovery of hepatitis viruses has been a fabulous journey and I was blessed to be onboard for a wonderful trip” (Mohammad S. Khuroo).

Discovery of five hepatitis viruses A to E has followed distinctive definable phases. Human experiments at Willowbrook identified two forms of hepatitis namely infectious hepatitis and serum hepatitis. The discovery of Australia antigen in 1965 led to rapid scientific developments in viral hepatitis. SH antigen was detected in sera of patients with serum hepatitis and soon SH antigen and Australia antigen were found to be identical and selectively associated with serum hepatitis. In 1970, 42-nm Dane particles were detected in Australia antigen positive sera and linked to the virus of serum hepatitis. Subsequently, a new antigen-antibody system (e-antigen/ antibody) was detected in such patients and associated with infectivity. Then, DNA polymerase was found in concentrated pellets containing Australia antigen. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA cloning and sequencing of HBV followed these developments. In 1973, 27 nm hepatitis A virus (HAV)–like particles were visualized in stool samples obtained during acute phase of illness after inoculation of MS-1 strain in volunteers. Cloning and sequencing of HAV followed. In 1977, a new antigen-antibody system (d antigen-antibody system) was identified by chance associated with HBV. Based on animal transmission studies, d agent was found to be another virus called hepatitis D virus that is defective, requires the helper functions of HBV and interferes with HBV replication. The search for hepatitis C virus started when non-A, non-B hepatitis was recognised in multiply transfused patients with subsequent successful animal transmission. HCV was identified by a novel immunoscreening approach involving screening of cDNA libraries from infectious sera. The story of hepatitis E is historically linked to discovery of waterborne epidemic non-A, non-B hepatitis from Kashmir, India. Virus-like-particles of the agent were identified in stool samples of a human volunteer after a self-experimentation. HEV cDNA was detected in bile-enriched infectious samples and full-length HEV RNA genome was subsequently cloned and sequenced. ( J CLIN EXP HEPATOL 2020;10:391–401)


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