The presence of Australia antigen in the serum correlates closely with viremia and is specific for the long incubation period type of hepatitis.1,2 It provides a marker for the classification of cases of acute viral hepatitis according to their etiology, and also for the identification of healthy carriers. The course of pregnancy in antigen-positive patients in both categories has been followed in an attempt to assess the consequences for both mother and child.
Patients Tested.—Five patients with antigen-positive hepatitis in pregnancy were identified in the course of diagnostic testing in the Virus Reference Laboratory, London. Three healthy carriers of Australia antigen were detected in a survey of 2,048 antenatal patients.
Laboratory Methods.—The techniques used for demonstrating Australia antigen have previously been described.3 The identity of positive reactions was checked by comparison with a reference antigen in gel diffusion tests. Negative results were confirmed by complement fixation