TEMPO.CO, Stockholm – Two citizens of the United States and one from England won the Award Nobel Medicine 2020 on Monday, 5 October 2020. All three are credited with having identified the Hepatitis C virus through decades of research that has helped limit the spread of the deadly disease and developed anti-viral drugs to cure it.
Their findings prove that a blood-borne virus can cause Hepatitis C, a disease that infects more than 70 million people worldwide and causes about 400,000 deaths every year. “This is enormous news, it will no doubt revive efforts to eliminate Hepatitis C as a global threat by 2030,” said Professor Gregory Dore, Head of the Clinical Research Program for Viral Hepatitis at Kirby Institute in Sydney, Australia.
The three scientists who were awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Medicine are Harvey Alter and Charles Rice from the US and Michael Houghton from the UK. They shared a prize money of 10 million Swedish kron (US $ 1.1 million) or the equivalent of Rp. 16 billion.
Thomas Perlmann, Secretary General of the Nobel Assembly, said that the selection of nominations had already been made before the outbreak of a new type of corona virus hit the world. “But the process of selecting winners recognizes the importance of identifying the virus as the first step in winning the battle against a new disease,” he said.
This is the second Nobel Medicine Prize awarded for hepatitis research after Baruch Blumberg won in 1976. At that time Blumberg discovered that a form of hepatitis that is transmitted through blood is caused by a virus that has become known as Hepatitis B.Hepatitis A, which is easily treatable, is transmitted through water. or contaminated food.
“Before discovery virus Hepatitis C, getting a blood transfusion is a bit like a game of Russian roulette, “said Nobel Committee member Nils-Goran Larsson, adding that millions of people can now receive safe transfusions and blood products.
This joint award is given to research carried out in the 1960s when Alter, who worked at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that liver disease could be spread through blood transfusions that was not caused by Hepatitis A or B. who was working for the Chiron pharmaceutical company.
Hepatitis illustration. Shutterstock.com
This virus, which belongs to the Flavivirus family, is named Hepatitis C. Identification of this virus has allowed the development of tests to filter blood bank supplies and greatly reduce the spread of disease, which can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Rice played a role in genetic engineering to produce a version of the Hepatitis C virus and demonstrated that the virus itself can cause chimpanzee symptoms comparable to human infection. At that time Rice was working at the University of Washington in the city of St. Louis.
Currently Alter is still affiliated with the NIH while Houghton is a professor of virology at the University of Alberta. Medium Rice leads the Study Center Hepatitis C at Rockefeller University until 2018 and remain active today.