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 and Africa. Hepatitis B is recognized as endemic in China and various other parts of Asia. Over one-third of the world's population has been or is actively infected by hepatitis B virus (acronym HBV). more...
The hepatitis B virus is a member of the Hepadnavirus family. It consists of a proteinaceous core particle containing the viral genome in the form of double stranded DNA and an outer lipid-based envelope with embedded proteins. The envelope proteins are involved in viral binding and release into susceptible cells. The inner capsid relocates the DNA genome to the cell's nucleus where viral mRNAs are transcribed. Three subgenomic transcripts encoding the envelope proteins are made, along with a poorly understood transcript encoding the X protein, whose function is still under debate. A fourth pre-genomic RNA is transcribed, which is exported to the cytosol and translates the viral polymerase and core proteins. Polymerase and pre-genomic RNA are encapsidated in assembling core particles, where reverse transcription of the pre-genomic RNA to genomic DNA occurs by the polymerase protein. The mature core particle then exits the cell via normal secretory pathways, acquiring an envelope along the way.
Hepatitis B is one of a few known non-retroviral viruses which employ reverse transcription as part of its replication process. Other viruses which use reverse transcription include HTLV or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, but HIV and hepatitis B are not related. Hepatitis B's genome is DNA, and reverse transcription is one of the latter steps in making new viral particles, whereas HIV has an RNA genome and reverse transcription is one of the first steps in replication.
Hepatitis B is largely transmitted through exposure to bodily fluids containing the virus. This includes unprotected sexual contact, blood transfusions, re-use of contaminated needles and syringes, vertical transmission from mother to child during childbirth, and so on. The primary method of transmission depends on the prevalence of the disease in a given area. In low prevalence areas, such as the continental United States, IV drug abuse and unprotected sex are the primary method. In moderate prevalence areas, the disease is predominantly spread among children. In high prevalence countries, such as China, vertical transmission is most common. Without intervention, a mother who is positive for the hepatitis B surface antigen confers a 20% risk of passing the infection to her offspring at the time of birth. This risk is as high as 90% if the mother is also positive for the hepatitis B e antigen.
Roughly 16-40% of unimmunized sexual partners of individuals with hepatitis B will be infected through sexual contact. The risk of transmission is closely related to the rate of viral replication in the infected individual at the time of exposure.
Clinical consequences and complications
Hepatitis B virus infection may either be acute (self-limited) or chronic (long-standing). Persons with self-limited infection clear the infection spontaneously within weeks to months.
Read more at Wikipedia.org