Americans Harvey Alter and Charles M. Rice, as well as British Michael Houghton, were awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus on Monday.
The award committee said that “this year the Nobel Prize is awarded to three scientists who have made a decisive contribution to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis, a major global health problem that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer in people of all the world”.
For one thing, Alter showed that an unknown virus was a fairly common cause of chronic hepatitis. Meanwhile, Houghton used a new strategy to isolate the virus and Rice was able to provide the first evidence that the virus identified by Houghton was the one that caused hepatitis, as Alter had pointed out.
In this regard, the Nobel Assembly highlighted that the three scientists with their studies have helped save millions of lives by isolating and identifying the virus, allowing blood supplies around the world to be tested for hepatitis C and preventing the transmission of the illness.
Also, thanks to them it is possible that “now there are highly sensitive blood tests for the virus that have practically eliminated hepatitis by transfusion in many parts of the world,” explained the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm on the designation of the Prize in the medical area.