(October 5, 2020 / JNS) A Jewish scientist was one of three professors jointly awarded on Monday the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Harvey J. Alter, along with Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice, received the prestigious prize for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus.
“For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating hepatitis C virus from the world population,” said the committee in a statement. They announced the prize at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
Alter, 85, is an intramural researcher at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Houghton, who is in his 70s, is a virologist at the University of Alberta in Canada. Rice, 68, is a virology professor at Rockefeller University in New York.
The three made seminal discoveries that led to the identification of a novel virus.
Prior to their work, the discovery of hepatitis A and hepatitis B had been critical steps forward, though the majority of blood-borne hepatitis cases remained unexplained. The discovery of the hepatitis C virus revealed the cause of the remaining cases of chronic hepatitis, as well as made possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives.
Alter demonstrated that an unknown virus was a common cause of chronic hepatitis, while Houghton used an untested strategy to isolate the genome of the new virus that was named hepatitis C. Rice provided the final evidence showing that the hepatitis C virus alone could cause hepatitis.
Liver inflammation—or hepatitis, a combination of the Greek words for liver and inflammation—is mainly caused by viral infections, although alcohol abuse, environmental toxins and autoimmune disease are also significant causes.
Hepatitis A is transmitted by contaminated water or food, and generally has little long-term impact on the patient. Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids, and represents a more serious threat as it can lead to a chronic condition with the development of cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Support Jewish Journalism
with 2020 Vision
One of the most intriguing stories of the sudden Coronavirus crisis is the role of the internet. With individuals forced into home quarantine, most are turning further online for information, education and social interaction.
JNS's influence and readership are growing exponentially, and our positioning sets us apart. Most Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas. JNS is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.
During this crisis, JNS continues working overtime. We are being relied upon to tell the story of this crisis as it affects Israel and the global Jewish community, and explain the extraordinary political developments taking place in parallel.
Our ability to thrive in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters. Monthly donations in particular go a long way in helping us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make during these challenging times. We thank you for your ongoing support and wish you blessings for good health and peace of mind.