Introduction: The history of viral hepatitis goes back thousands of years and is a fascinating one. When humans were first infected by such agents, a natural repetitive cycle began, with the capacity to infect billions of humans, thus decimating the population and causing sequelae in thousands of lives.
Methods: This article reviews the available scientific information on the history of viral hepatitis. All the information was obtained through extensive bibliographic review, including original and review articles and consultations on the internet.
Results: There are reports on outbreaks of jaundice epidemics in China 5,000 years ago and in Babylon more than 2,500 years ago. The catastrophic history of great jaundice epidemics and pandemics is well known and generally associated with major wars. In the American Civil War, 40,000 cases occurred among Union troops. In 1885, an outbreak of catarrhal jaundice affected 191 workers at the Bremen shipyard (Germany) after vaccination against smallpox. In 1942, 28,585 soldiers became infected with hepatitis after inoculation with the yellow fever vaccine. The number of cases of hepatitis during the Second World War was estimated to be 16 million. Only in the twentieth century were the main agents causing viral hepatitis identified. The hepatitis B virus was the first to be discovered.
Conclusions: In this paper, through reviewing the history of major epidemics caused by hepatitis viruses and the history of discovery of these agents, singular peculiarities were revealed. Examples of this include the accidental or chance discovery of the hepatitis B and D viruses.