Three Americans Jointly get 2020 Noble Prize in Medicine for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus
The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has jointly been awarded to three Amaricans Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus.
Announcing the prize in Stockholm on Monday, the Nobel Committee noted that the trio’s work helped explain a major source of blood-borne hepatitis that couldn’t be explained by the hepatitis A and B viruses. Their work makes possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives, the committee said.
The World Health Organisation estimates there are over 70 million cases of hepatitis worldwide and 400,000 deaths each year. The disease is chronic and a major cause of liver inflammation and cancer.Hepatitis, from the Greek names for liver and inflammation, is a disease characterized by poor appetite, vomiting, fatigue and jaundice – yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes. Chronic hepatitis leads to liver damage, which may progress to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Viral infection is the leading cause of hepatitis, with some forms persisting without symptoms for many years before life-threatening complications develop.
Thanks to their discovery, highly sensitive blood tests for the virus are now available and these have essentially eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in many parts of the world, greatly improving global health, the committee said.
Their discovery also allowed the rapid development of antiviral drugs directed at hepatitis C, it added. For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating hepatitis C virus from the world population.
The prestigious Nobel award comes with a gold medal and prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor (over USD 1,118,000), courtesy of a bequest left 124 years ago by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.
The medicine prize carried particular significance this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has highlighted the importance that medical research has for societies and economies around the world. The Nobel Committee often recognizes basic science that has laid the foundations for practical applications in common use today. The award is the first of six prizes being announced through October 12.