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Nobel Prize for Medicine

Nobel Prize for Medicine

Context:

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

  • WHO 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 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.

Significance of discovery:

  • The Nobel Committee noted that the trio’s work helped explain a major source of blood-borne hepatitis that couldn’t be explained by the hepatitis A and B viruses.
  • Their work makes possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives.
  • Now, highly sensitive blood tests for the virus are available and these have essentially eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in many parts of the world.
  • Their discovery also allowed the rapid development of antiviral drugs directed at hepatitis C. For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating the hepatitis C virus from the world population.

Hepatitis:

  • It refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver and commonly caused by a viral infection,
    • However, there are other possible causes of hepatitis like autoimmune responses, medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol.
  • There are 5 main hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D, and E.

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.
  • A vaccine for the disease has still not been developed but it can be treated with the help of anti-viral drugs.

Initiatives:

  • The Indian government has included Hepatitis B under India's Universal Immunization Programme.
    • Objective: To provide free of cost vaccination against a total of 12 vaccine-preventable diseases.
  • National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme (NVHCP):
    • It was launched in 2018 with an objective to eliminate Hepatitis C by 2030.
    • The program is the largest program for Hepatitis B and C diagnosis and treatment in the world.

Source: The Hindu