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Nobel Prize For Medicine 2020

Nobel Prize For Medicine 2020

Introduction

  • The Nobel Prizes regarded as the most prestigious awards given for intellectual achievement in the world are awarded annually from a fund bequeathed for that purpose by the Swedish inventor and industrialist Alfred Nobel.
  • It is announced every year for excellence in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, Economics, and a distinguished achievement towards humanity – commonly known as the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Institutions That Choose Winners

The Nobel Committees of the prize-awarding institutions are responsible for the selection of the candidates, the institutions being:

  • Nobel Prize in Physics, Nobel Prize in Chemistry: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  • Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: The Karolinska Institutet
  • Nobel Prize in Literature: The Swedish Academy
  • Nobel Peace Prize: A five-member Committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament (Storting)
  • Prize in Economic Sciences: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Nobel Prize For Medicine 2020

  • The Nobel Prize has been awarded to American medical researchers and virologists Harvey J Alter and Charles M Rice, and British scientist Michael Houghton for the discovery of Hepatitis C which was discovered in 1982 by screening millions of DNA samples.
  • The discovery of Hepatitis C virus revealed the cause of the remaining cases of chronic hepatitis and made possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives.
  • Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice made seminal discoveries that led to the identification of a novel virus, Hepatitis C virus.
  • Prior to their work, the discovery of the Hepatitis A and B viruses had been critical steps forward, but the majority of blood-borne hepatitis cases remained unexplained.
  • The discovery of Hepatitis C virus revealed the cause of the remaining cases of chronic hepatitis and made possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives.

About Hepatitis | Nobel Prize For Medicine 2020

  • Hepatitis refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver.
  • It’s commonly caused by a viral infection, but there are other possible causes of hepatitis like autoimmune responses, medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol.
  • There are 5 main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D, and E.
  • World Hepatitis Day is observed each year on 28th July to enhance awareness of viral hepatitis.
  • Hepatitis C is caused by the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV).
  • The first, (hepatitis A), is transmitted by polluted water or food and generally has little long-term impact on the patient.
  • The second type is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids and represents a much more serious threat since it can lead to a chronic condition.
  • This form of hepatitis is insidious, as otherwise healthy individuals can be silently infected for many years before serious complications arise.
  • It is transmitted through direct contact with infected body fluids, typically through injection drug use and sexual contact.

Significance of this Nobel Prize-awarded discovery

  • The Nobel Laureates’ discovery of Hepatitis C virus is a landmark achievement in the ongoing battle against viral diseases.
  • 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 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.

Indian Scenario | Nobel Prize For Medicine 2020

  • In India, 40 million people are chronically infected with Hepatitis B virus and 6 to 12 million with the Hepatitis C virus.
  • In 2018, the government launched the National Viral Hepatitis Program. The program is the largest program for Hepatitis B and C diagnosis and treatment in the world.

Steps by India to address Hepatitis issue

  • Inclusion of Hepatitis B vaccination under the expanded Universal Immunization Programme.
  • Launching of the National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme in July 2018 under National Health Mission by the Health Ministry. The aim of the programme is to combat hepatitis and achieve countrywide elimination of Hepatitis C by 2030.
  • Recently, an automated coronavirus testing device named ‘COBAS 6800’ was launched which can also detect viral Hepatitis B & C, among others.

Harvey J. Alter 

  • Harvey J. Alter was born in 1935 in New York. He received his medical degree at the University of Rochester Medical School, and trained in internal medicine at Strong Memorial Hospital and at the University Hospitals of Seattle. In 1961, he joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a clinical associate. He spent several years at Georgetown University before returning to NIH in 1969 to join the Clinical Center’s Department of Transfusion Medicine as a senior investigator.

Michael Houghton 

  • Michael Houghton  was born in the United Kingdom. He received his PhD degree in 1977 from King’s College London. He joined G. D. Searle & Company before moving to Chiron Corporation, Emeryville, California in 1982. He relocated to University of Alberta in 2010 and is currently a Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology and the Li Ka Shing Professor of Virology at the University of Alberta where he is also Director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute.

Charles M. Rice 

  • Charles M. Rice  was born in 1952 in Sacramento. He received his PhD degree in 1981 from the California Institute of Technology where he also trained as a postdoctoral fellow between 1981-1985. He established his research group at Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis in 1986 and became full Professor in 1995. Since 2001 he has been Professor at the Rockefeller University, New York. During 2001-2018 he was the Scientific and Executive Director, Center for the Study of Hepatitis C at Rockefeller University where he remains active.

 

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