Mankind probably has known viral hepatitis for many centuries; however, the major and most dramatic developments in our knowledge of these diseases have taken place during the second half of the 20th century. During this relatively short period of time, the infectious nature of hepatitis A, B, and C has been proven, leading to their identification and description. The advent of serologic markers has provided the means for establishing the diagnosis. Epidemiologic studies have provided important information that led to exciting achievements in detection and prevention of transmission. Molecular biology studies and cell culture techniques have established our knowledge of the viral genomes, and led to the development of specific vaccines for hepatitis A and B. Anti-viral therapy has been developed and aggressive combination therapy has emerged as a promising strategy for chronic hepatitis B and C. This article reviews some of the main fields of progress and achievement related to viral hepatitis A, B, and C in the 20th century.
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