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Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine 2020

  • 06 Oct 2020
  • 3 min read

Why in News

Americans Harvey J Alter and Charles M Rice, and British scientist Michael Houghton were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology, 2020 for the discovery of the Hepatitis C Virus.

  • The Hepatitis C virus was discovered in 1982 by screening millions of DNA samples.
  • The Nobel award comes with a gold medal and prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor (over USD 1,118,000) and was created by Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.

Key Points

  • Hepatitis:
    • Hepatitis refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver.
    • It’s commonly caused by a viral infection, but there are other possible causes of hepatitis like autoimmune responses, medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol.
    • There are 5 main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D, and E.
    • World Hepatitis Day is observed each year on 28th July to enhance awareness of viral hepatitis.
  • Hepatitis C:
    • Hepatitis C is caused by the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV).
    • It is transmitted through direct contact with infected body fluids, typically through injection drug use and sexual contact.
    • According to the World Health Organization, about 71 million people in the world have chronic infection with the Hepatitis C virus, which is also a major cause of liver cancer.
    • A vaccine for the disease has still not been developed but it can be treated with the help of anti-viral drugs.
  • Significance of the Discovery:
    • The discovery helped in finding a cure for the disease, and effective anti-viral drugs are now available.
    • Tests have also been developed to identify blood containing this virus, so that infected blood is not given to any patient.

Hepatitis in India

  • 40 million people are chronically infected with the Hepatitis B virus and 6 to 12 million with the Hepatitis C virus.
  • In 2018 the National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme (NVHCP) was launched which has the target to eliminate Hepatitis C by 2030. The program is the largest program for Hepatitis B and C diagnosis and treatment in the world.
  • Hepatitis B is included under India's Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) which provides free of cost vaccination against a total of 12 vaccine-preventable diseases.
  • The first recombinant DNA-based vaccine for Hepatitis B infection was made in India by Hyderabad-based Shantha Biotech.

Source: TH

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