Recent advances in hepatitis research have shed new light on the etiology, pathogenesis, epidemiology and prevention of type B hepatitis infection. The so-called ‘Dane’ particle is probably the complete hepatitis B virion; its outer coat is the hepatitis B (Australia) antigen (HB Ag) and its inner core is an immunologically distinct particle. Subtypes of HB Ag (a, d, y, w and r) are useful indices for epidemiological surveys. Concepts of epidemiology have changed: type B hepatitis is transmissible by contact as well as by inoculation. The presence of HB Ag in blood is indicative of the presence of hepatitis B virus. Tests to detect antigen and use of voluntary blood donors have played a major role in the decreased incidence of post transfusion hepatitis. A special hepatitis B gammaglobulin preparation and a heat-inactivated hepatitis B vaccine have proved to be effective in preliminary studies.
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