Americans Harvey Alter and Charles Rice together with Briton Michael Houghton have won the Nobel Medicine Prize for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus.
The Nobel jury said on Monday, the three were honoured 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.
“Prior to their work, the discovery of the Hepatitis A and B viruses had been critical steps forward,” the Nobel Assembly at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute said in a statement on awarding the prize of 10 million Swedish krona ($1.1 million). The three scientists will share the prize money.
“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.”
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”, the Nobel committee said.
“For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating Hepatitis C virus from the world population,” the jury said.