Originally known as serum hepatitis, Hepatitis B
has only been recognized as such since World War II
, and has caused current epidemics
in parts of Asia
. Hepatitis B is transmitted thorough sexual contact, and by injections transporting a virus-bearing serum, most often during blood transfusion
and by contaminated needles
Roughly 16-40% of sexual partners of individuals with hepatitis B will be infected through sexual contact.
The virus that causes hepatitis B is a member of the Hepadnavirus family and it is composed of an icosahedral nucleocapsid (core) enclosing a circular, double-stranded DNA genome. The virus is unique amongst the DNA viruses in that it uses a reverse transcriptase to generate the genomic DNA to deliver to its progeny. Additionally, the DNA genome is incomplete on one strand.
Hepatitis D infection requires a concomitant infection with hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B infection can lead to a chronic inflammation of the liver, leading to cirrhosis. This type of infection dramatically increases the incidence of liver cancer.
A recombinant vaccine to prevent hepatitis B is available.
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