2020 Nobel Prize: 3 scientists jointly awarded Prize in Medicine for discovery of Hepatitis C virus

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The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2020 was awarded jointly to American scientists Harvey Alter and Charles Rice and British scientist Michael Houghton “for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus.”

According to the jury, the three scientists “made a decisive contribution to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis, a major global health problem that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer in people around the world.”

Thanks to the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus, extremely sensitive blood tests are available which have essentially eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in many parts of the world, resulting in a massive improvement in global health. Also, their discovery has helped in antiviral drugs and medicines directed at hepatitis C, making the disease curable and opening the doors to an opportunity to eliminate the disease from the world. In short, their work has made a decisive contribution to the understanding and treatment of hepatitis C.

The winners were announced by the head of the Nobel Committee, Thomas Perlman, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The prize money of 10m Swedish kronor will be shared among the three recipients.

Born in 1935 in New York, Harvey Alter is currently associated with the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda in Maryland whereas Charles Rice is associated with the Rockefeller University in New York. Michael Houghton is affiliated with the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

The World Health Organization estimates there are over 70 million cases of hepatitis worldwide and 400,000 deaths each year. And these numbers could reduce significantly due to the research by the winners of this year’s prize.

This is the first of the Nobel Prizes for this year that will be announced until 12th October. The other prizes for excellence in physics, chemistry, literature, peace, and economics will be announced soon.

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