About 375 million people are infected with the hepatitis B virus. It has killed more people than AIDS and also causes millions of cases of liver cancer. The discovery of this deadly virus and the vaccine against it--a vaccine that is sharply decreasing the infection rate worldwide and is probably the first effective cancer vaccine--was one of the great triumphs of twentieth-century medicine. And it almost didn't happen.
With wit and insight, this scientific memoir and story of discovery describes how Baruch Blumberg and a team of researchers found a virus they were not looking for and created a vaccine for a disease they previously knew little about--work that took the author around the world and won him the Nobel Prize.
Blumberg and his collaborators were investigating relationships between gene distribution and disease susceptibility, research that was yielding interesting data but no real breakthroughs. Many viewed their work as more field trip than science. But, through decades of hard work and investigative twists and turns, their pursuit led to the hepatitis B antigen, the elusive virus itself, and, ultimately, the vaccine. As he takes the reader through the detective work that culminated in his incredible discovery, the author recounts with immediacy exciting moments in the lab and in the field--from a hair-raising flight to Africa to an unpleasant encounter with Alaskan sled dogs.
The hepatitis B story is more than a fascinating chronicle of a major discovery. What Blumberg followed to the virus was a trail of remarkable "accidents" that happen when scientists seek answers to interesting questions. Those events, combined with the investigator's determined persistence, resulted in studies that generated a pharmaceutical industry, have far-flung public-health applications, and saved millions of lives.
"Nothing seems quite so dramatic as the unexpected eureka moment, when, escoreted by the gods of good fortune, scientists somehow stumble upon answers to questions they never knew to ask. This is the story that Baruch S. Blumberg tells in Hepatitis B: The Hunt for a Killer Virus. Blumberg, a U.S. geneticist and biochemist, won the Nobel Prize in 1976 after finding a virus he was never looking for. . . . Blumberg does a fine job at connecting this medical advance to the lives of real people."--Carolyn Abraham, Toronto Globe and Mail
"The discovery by Baruch Blumberg of the Australia antigen, a specific viral marker of the hepatitis B virus, was one of the most important advances in medical knowledge during the past 50 years and had huge implications for preventive medicine. This inspiring book is an intensely personal and interesting account of the work of Blumberg and his close associates who . . . devised the first generation vaccine for [the] infection. . . . [This book] is essential reading for all aspiring scientists. . . . And it should be read by the thousands of people who work on the control and eradication of the hepatitis B virus. . . . It is a gem."--Arie J. Zuckerman, Nature
"Blumberg tells the [Hepatitis B] story in a lively manner, with touches of humor. The Nobel-Prize winning author has written for both scientists and nonscientists [and he] beautifully illustrates the forward, sideways, and backward steps involved in the scientific method."--William Beatty, Booklist
"Blumberg takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the convoluted circumstances that led to the discovery of hepatitis B and the vaccine against it. Blumberg's modest style and vast knowledge combine to make this a thoroughly intriguing look at the scientific research process."--Library Journal
Table of Contents
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