About 19 years have elapsed since the causative agent of hepatitis A was identified by immune electron microscopy in feces of infected individuals by Feinstone et al. (1973) and about a decade since the hepatitis A virus (HAV) particles purified from such fecal samples shown to bear similarity in various properties with the picornaviruses. The picornaviruses contitute a family of small, stable, RNA viruses that includes well known and widely investigated agents as poliovirus, rhinovirus, encephalomyocarditis virus and foot-and-mouth disease virus (Siegl, 1988). The conclusions based on analogy with established properties of known picornaviruses as poliovirus have proved invaluable in the analysis of the hepatitis A virus. Current evidence is indicative of HAV as distinct picornavirus with several as yet unrecognized properties (Stapleton et al., 1991a; Vento et al., 1991).
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