It is not yet clear whether women who develop hepatitis with Australia (Au) antigen, or are asymptomatic carriers of Au antigen, transmit the antigen to their offspring by the transplacental route. The following case illustrates the difficulty in determining the time of acquisition of Au antigen by the newborn infant.
The 27-year-old mother of this male infant experienced a normal pregnancy until the time of delivery, when she was found to be jaundiced. There were no other symptoms and she was afebrile. Liver function tests showed elevated bilirubin and transaminase levels. Jaundice lasted only seven to ten days. The history did not disclose the source of hepatitis. Her serum at the time of delivery contained Au antigen detected by gel diffusion, complement fixation, and by electron microscopy. Anti-Au antibody was not present. Serum was negative 2 and 5½ months later; breast milk did not contain Au antigen.
The child, who