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July 13, 1984

The Australia Antigen

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Pathology (Dr Gill) and Pathology and Medicine (Dr Jenkins), University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and the Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh (Dr Jenkins).

JAMA. 1984;252(2):258-260. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350020060027

The article by Blumberg and associates describing the antigen that was ultimately found to be associated with infection by the hepatitis B virus (HBV)1 presents a classic example of serendipity in scientific research and the fact that "chance favors the prepared mind." It also presents a fascinating insight into the nature of the scientific process and the way in which important discoveries are made.2

The work was careful, logical, and meticulous. It provided solid evidence for the presence of an antigenic system that was later identified as that of the HBV. The initial interpretation of the work was colored by a fortuitous association between the presence of the antigen and patients with leukemia. However, Blumberg and colleagues quickly grasped the true significance of their finding, ie, that the presence of the antigen was associated with blood transfusion and the subsequent development of hepatitis. Their observations became a new