Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

2020 Nobel for Hepatitis C Virus discovery


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Hepatitis

Mains level: Not Much

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

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which one of the following statements is not correct? (CSP 2019)

(a) Hepatitis B virus is transmitted much like HIV.

(b) Hepatitis B. unlike Hepatitis C, does not have a vaccine.

(c) Globally, the number of people infected with Hepatitis B and C viruses arc several times more than those infected with HIV.

(d) Some of those infected with Hepatitis B and C viruses do not show the symptoms for many years.

Hepatitis C Virus

  • Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a bloodborne virus and causes liver diseases. It refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver.
  • The novel virus caused several deaths in the 1960s and 1970s — but remained unknown until its discovery in the late 1980s.

What are other Hepatitis Viruses?

  • Before the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus, two other viruses were known to cause hepatitis in patients.
  • The Hepatitis A virus was known to spread mainly through contaminated food and water and caused a relatively milder form of liver inflammation.
  • Hepatitis B, discovered in the 1960s, was known to transmit mainly through infected blood and caused a more serious form of the disease.
  • Incidentally, the discovery of the Hepatitis B virus too was rewarded with a Nobel Prize in Medicine, given to Baruch Blumberg in 1976. There are vaccines available for this disease now.

How Hepatitis C came to observation?

  • The discovery and identification of the Hepatitis B virus facilitated the development of a diagnostic test to detect its presence in blood.
  • Thereafter, only blood sanitized from this virus would be given to patients, but it was observed that even this sanitized blood was able to prevent only 20% of the blood-borne hepatitis cases.
  • It was then that the search for the new virus began.

How is Hepatitis C treated?

  • Presently there is no vaccine available for HCV. However, it can be treated with antiviral medication.
  • Hepatitis A and B are preventable by vaccine.


In news: Nobel Prize

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