Nobel Prize in Medicine honors virus research


This year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine goes to researchers who discovered the hepatitis C virus. – Can be related to the situation with the coronavirus, says Swedish Nobel Committee leader.

The winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine were presented on Monday by Thomas Perlmann (right), secretary of the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. On the screen behind him is a picture of the award winners Harvey J. Alter (left), Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice (right). Claudio Bresciani / TT / AP / Context

Illustration photo of Nobel Medal: Fernando Vergara / AP / NTB

Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice will receive the award for 2020. The Swedish Karolinska Institutet announced this on Monday.

Alter and Rice are Americans, while Houghton is from the UK. The researchers are honored for their contributions to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis C, which causes chronic liver damage and liver cancer.

– The Nobel Prize winners’ discovery of the hepatitis C virus is a milestone in the ongoing work to fight viral diseases, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet writes in a statement.

Corona pandemics

As a result of the corona pandemic, there has been extra attention around the Nobel Prize in Medicine this year.

Nobel Prizes are usually awarded for achievements far back in time. Therefore, it was unlikely that the medicine price would go to someone who has worked directly with the coronary pandemic.

Patrik Ernfors, head of Karolinska Institutet’s Nobel Committee, believes, however, that there are parallels between the discovery of the hepatitis C virus and research on the coronavirus.

– I think it is quite easy to relate it to the current situation, he said on Monday.

He pointed out that it is crucial to identify the virus that causes disease. This is a prerequisite for being able to develop medicines and vaccines.

Chronic injuries

This year’s three winners will share the prize money of 10 million Swedish kroner. They will receive the award on December 10, but the traditional award ceremony in Stockholm has been canceled due to the corona pandemic.

The virus that Alter, Houghton and Rice discovered in the late 1980s is the cause of the disease hepatitis C. Most people who become infected get chronic liver damage with a risk of developing liver cancer.

Around 10,000 people in Norway have chronic hepatitis C, and between 300 and 400 people are infected annually. Many people are not aware that they are infected and can be ill for several years before the symptoms develop.

The disease was in 2016 on MSF’s list of forgotten crises. Hundreds of thousands of people die each year from diseases related to hepatitis C, despite the fact that there are currently good treatment methods.

– WHO is the favorite

The Medicine Prize was the first of the Nobel Prizes to be announced this week. Formally, the award is called the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Throughout the week comes the Physics, Chemistry and Literature Prize, and on Friday it is time for the Peace Prize.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the favorite to receive the Peace Prize, according to several major gaming companies. The winner will receive the award on December 10, but the traditional ceremony in Oslo City Hall has been canceled due to the pandemic.

Among the favorites for the literature prize are the Canadian poet Anne Carson and the American-Caribbean Jamaica Kincaid. Canadian Margaret Atwood, known for several novels with post-apocalyptic themes, is also considered relevant.

One of the previous recipients of the literature prize is Gabriel García Márquez, who in the 1980s wrote “Love in the time of cholera” – a novel that during the pandemic has inspired countless puns.

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