Americans Harvey J Alter and Charles M Rice and British scientist Michael Houghton have been conferred with the Nobel Prize for Medicine 2020 on Monday for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus. In a statement, the Nobel Assembly said that the three laureates had made seminal discoveries that led to the identification of a novel virus, the Hepatitis C virus.
Their work had identified the Hepatitis C virus, which causes cirrhosis and liver cancer. According to Reuters, the award-giving body said that the discoveries of three scientists meant that there was now a chance of eradicating the Hepatitis C virus completely. The assembly said that prior to their work, the discovery of the Hepatitis A and B viruses had been critical steps forward.
In its statement, it had highlighted that the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus revealed the cause of remaining cases of chronic hepatitis and made possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives. Thomas Perlmann, who is the head of the Nobel Committee, had announced the winners of the award in Stockholm, Sweden.
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
The prestigious Nobel Prize for medicine comes with a gold medal and prize money of 10 million Swedish Kronor ($1.1 million) and unlike the preceding years, the Nobel Prize for Medicine has carried a paramount and significance this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak, which has underlined the importance that medical research has for societies and economies around the world.
The statement from the Nobel Committee said, "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".
"For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating the Hepatitis C virus from the world population. To achieve this goal, international efforts facilitating blood testing and making antiviral drugs available across the globe will be required", the Nobel Committee added.
According to the World Health Organization, it has been estimated that there are over 70 million cases of Hepatitis worldwide and 4,00,000 deaths each year. Being recognized as one of the prestigious global awards, the Nobel Prize will be bestowed for extraordinary works in six fields - medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, peace, and economics.
While Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in Norway, the prizes for rest of the fields will be announced n Sweden. In what has become a Nobel week, the Nobel Prize for Medicine was announced on October 5 while Nobel Prize for Physics will be announced on October 6, Chemistry on October 7, Literature on October 8, Peace on October 9, and Economics on October 10. About 211 individuals and 107 organizations have been nominated for the various fields of Nobel Prize 2020.
According to reports, Hepatitis or liver inflammation is mainly caused by viral infections while some of the other causes include regular intake of alcohol, environmental toxins, and autoimmune disease. Reuters had reported that the Nobel Foundation has canceled the traditional banquet and will hand out the medals and awards in a televised event rather than holding a live event in Stockholm, owing to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“This virus has been a plague affecting millions of people – and still is.”— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 5, 2020
Thomas Perlmann, Secretary of the Nobel Committee, reflects on the 2020 #NobelPrize in Physiology or Medicine which was awarded “for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus.” pic.twitter.com/jLLYuB344s