The 2020 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology has been awarded to scientists Harvey J. Alter, Charles M. Rice and Michael Houghton for their work in identifying the Hepatitis C virus, which causes cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Thomas Perlmann (R), secretary of the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, announces the winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden, October 5, 2020.
Thomas Perlmann (R), secretary of the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, announces the winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden, October 5, 2020. (Reuters)

Americans Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice, and British scientist Michael Houghton have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus.

The head of the Nobel Committee, Thomas Perlmann, announced the winners in Stockholm on Monday.

The World Health Organization estimates there are over 70 million cases of hepatitis worldwide and 400,000 deaths each year. 

The disease is chronic and a major cause of liver inflammation and cancer.

The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and prize money of  more than $1,118,000 ( or 10 million Swedish kronor), courtesy of a bequest left 124 years ago by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.

The award is the first of six prizes being announced through October 12. 

The other prizes are for outstanding work in the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics.

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Medicine prize

The medicine prize carries particular significance this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has highlighted the importance that medical research has for societies and economies around the world. 

Often the Nobel Assembly recognises basic science that has laid the foundations for practical applications in common use today.

It is common for several scientists who worked in the same field to share the prize. Last year, British scientist Peter Ratcliffe and Americans William Kaelin and Gregg Semenza received the award for discovering details of how the body’s cells sense and react to low oxygen levels.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies