Hepatitis C discovery wins Nobel Prize for Medicine

Copenhagen, Oct 5 (efe-epa).- Three scientists who discovered the Hepatitis C virus have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Researchers Harvey Alter and Charles Rice, from the United States, and their British colleague Michael Houghton were honored with this year’s accolade.

The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm praised them for their “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”.

It was the first round of prizes in the 2020 Nobel Prize, with physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economy due to be announced in the coming days.

The trio’s research was described as “landmark achievement in the ongoing battle against viral diseases” by the prize committee.

“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,” it added in a statement.

Alter spent several years at Georgetown University before he returned to the National Institutes of Health in 1969 to join the department of transfusion medicine, where he was head of clinical studies and associate director of research.

He was a co-discoverer of an Australian antigen, key to detecting the Hepatitis B virus, and later led a project at the NIH clinical center that created a repository of blood samples used to discover causes and reduce the risk of transfusion-associated hepatitis.

Alter, who in 2002 was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences and the US Institute of Medicine, was a principal investigator in studies to identify Hepatitis C and continues to study the risk of infection from blood transfusions.

He was studying hepatitis in patients who had received blood transfusions during the 1970s, by which time only Hepatitis A and B had been identified.

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