Washington: (Web Desk) American experts Harvey J. Alter, Charles M. Rice and British expert Michael Hugton have been awarded the Nobel Medicine Prize 2020 for their discovery of the hepatitis C virus.
The Nobel jury said on Tuesday that the three scientists were honored in recognition of their decisive role in the fight against hepatitis, which is a major global health problem that brings about liver cancer.
According to the Nobel Prize committee, the award is being given to British scientist Michael Houghton and American researchers Harvey Alter and Charles Rice because their discovery in 1989 has saved millions of lives.
The virus causes liver cancer, therefore many people have to undergo a liver transplant which is a very expensive operation.
There were many concerns about blood donation in the 1960s, as many people who received blood donations were suffering from hepatitis. According to the Nobel Prize Committee, blood donation at that time was like 'playing with one's life'. Hepatitis disease has been eradicated from many parts of the world through highly sensitive blood tests, and antiviral drugs have been developed.
The Nobel Prize committee said in a statement that "for the first time in history, the disease seems to be curable and the hepatitis C virus may now be eradicated from the world."
Professor Harvey Alter was researching blood transfusions between patients at the US Department of Health in 1972 where he found out about a mysterious infection. The patients were suffering ill after the blood transfusion. They found that the disease could be transmitted to chimpanzees in the same way. It became known as 'non-hepatitis A, B' and research is going on in this regard.
The virus was genetically engineered in 1989 by Professor Michael Hoffton in pharmaceutical company Sharan. This type of 'flavivirus' is called hepatitis C. The research was finalized in 1997 by Professor Charles Rice at Washington University in St. Louis. They genetically modified the hepatitis C virus and injected it into the liver of a chimpanzee, which showed that it could be infected.
Professor Thomas Perlmann, the general secretary of the Nobel Assembly, contacted Alter and Rice. They were very surprised and so happy that they almost could not speak. I enjoyed talking to them.