Written by Amrita Prakash, a grade 7 student.
This year’s Nobel Prize for Medicine has been announced. It has been given to three scientists for their contribution in the discovery of a virus called Hepatitis C.
The scientists are Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice, who belong to U.S., and Michael Houghton who is from the U.K. The Nobel committee issued a statement saying that the trio were being awarded the prize because they made “a decisive contribution to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis, a major global health problem that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer in people around the world.”
The discovery of the virus, in the 1970s and 1980s, led to the finding of a cure for the disease. Thereafter, tests were developed that identified blood that had this virus.
What is the Nobel Prize?
We wrote a piece on what the Nobel is a while ago. You can read it here.
But, very quickly, here’s what it is.
The Nobel Prize is named after Alfred Nobel – who was a rich Swedish businessman, chemist, engineer, inventor, and also a philanthropist, who was best known for inventing a high explosive called dynamite. Nobel later regretted inventing the dynamite (because it killed people) and decided to set up a foundation that would give awards to people every year who have done something to benefit people.
The Prizes have been awarded since 1901.
So, Nobel Prizes are a set of prestigious awards given in six categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions. They are given for outstanding achievement in the fields of Chemistry, Literature, Physics, and Physiology or Medicine. While these above category prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway. The sixth Nobel Prize, for Economics was created by Swedish National Bank in 1968 and named after Alfred Nobel as well. The Nobel Prize comes with a diploma, medal, and cash award.
The prize money this year will be $1.1 million (more than 7 crore Rupees!)
What is Hepatitis C? Is there an A and B too?
Hepatitis C is one of the Hepatitis viruses that attack a person’s liver and causes swelling. There are 5 main hepatitis viruses – types A, B, C, D and E. While they all can be dangerous, B and C can lead to serious diseases and also cause of liver disease and cancer.
Before the Hepatitis C virus was discovered, the A and B viruses were known to cause hepatitis in people. The Hepatitis A virus spread mainly through contaminated food and water and Hepatitis B spread mainly through infected blood.
According to the World Health Organization, about 71 million people all over the world carry the Hepatitis C virus. There is no vaccine for the disease has yet.
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