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2020 Nobel: Three scientists share Prize in Physiology or Medicine

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2020 Nobel: Three scientists share Prize in Physiology or Medicine:


Americans Harvey J Alter and Charles M Rice, and British scientist Michael Houghton have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus.

Their Contributions:

  • 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.
  • 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.


What is Hepatitis C?

It is a liver disease.

Caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV): the virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis.

Hepatitis C is a major cause of liver cancer.

How is it caused? Spread?

The hepatitis C virus is a bloodborne virus: the most common modes of infection are through exposure to small quantities of blood.


Antiviral medicines can cure more than 95% of persons with hepatitis C infection, thereby reducing the risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer, but access to diagnosis and treatment is low.

There is currently no effective vaccine against hepatitis C; however, research in this area is ongoing.

Types of Hepatitis Viruses:

There are 5 main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E.

  • Hepatitis A and E are typically caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water.
  • Hepatitis B, C and D usually occur as a result of parenteral contact with infected body fluids.


About Nobel Prize in Medicine:

Awarded by the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

First awarded in 1901.

  • The 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.


We’ll cover more about Nobel prizes in coming days.

Because, the award in medicine is the first of six prizes being announced. The other prizes are for outstanding work in the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics.


Prelims Link:

  1. What is Hepatitis?
  2. Difference between Hepatitis A, B and C.
  3. About Nobel Prizes.

Mains Link:

Why is Hepatitis C considered to be a global health concern? Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.