U.S scientists Harvey J Alter and Charles M Rice, and British scientist Michael Houghton were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology on Monday for the discovery of the 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 has paved way for blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives, the committee said.
The Nobel committee also announced the news on Twitter. “BREAKING NEWS: The 2020 #NobelPrize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded jointly to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice “for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus,” the committee tweeted.
BREAKING NEWS:— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 5, 2020
The 2020 #NobelPrize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded jointly to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice “for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus.” pic.twitter.com/MDHPmbiFmS
“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. Their discovery also allowed the rapid development of antiviral drugs directed at hepatitis C,” the committee said adding that for the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating hepatitis C virus from the world population.
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. 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 of medical research for societies and economies around the world.