DISCOVERY OF HEPATITIS C BY 2020 MEDICINE NOBEL LAUREATES
WHAT IS THE HEPATITIS VIRAL?
It is an inflammation of the liver. The condition can progress to fibrosis, cirrhosis or liver cancer. It is characterised by yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes.
HOW MANY TYPES OF HEPATITIS VIRUS ARE THERE?
Five - Hepatitis A and E are caused by intaking contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B, C and D occur as a result of bodily contact with infected fluids via invasive medical equipments like syringes.
HOW FATAL IS HEPATITIS C?
WHO estimates there are more than 70 million cases of hepatitis worldwide and 400,000 deaths each year. Hepatitis C causes spider-like blood vessels on the skin (spider angiomas), fatigue and bloating.
HOW DID THEY DISCOVER HEPATITIS C?
Harvey J. Alter, one of the laureates, was studying hepatitis in patients who had received blood transfusions. Tests for Hepatitis A and B infections showed that they were not the cause and the mysterious new illness was termed “non-A, non-B” hepatitis.
THEN WHAT HAPPENED?
The new virus couldn’t be isolated for several years using traditional techniques for virus isolation. So Michael Houghton and his team created a collection of DNA fragments from the blood of an infected chimpanzee and found a virus belonging to Flavivirus family and named it Hepatitis C.
WHAT ABOUT CHARLES RICE?
Charles generated an RNA variant of the virus and injected it into the liver of chimpanzees, via genetic engineering. The virus was then detected in the blood and the chimpanzees exhibited changes similar to those seen in humans infected with the disease.
WHY IS THE AWARD IMPORTANT?
The Nobel Committee chose to recognize the work done by virologists, whose discoveries led to the development of antiviral treatments that can now cure about 95% of hepatitis C patients. It would also boost the morale of researchers working in the COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-COV-2 virus.
IS HEPATITIS C CURABLE?
Yes, Hepatitis C is curable, if treated using direct acting antiviral (DAA) tablets. The doctor assesses the patient’s liver, to check the severity of damage , either with a blood test or a fibroscan and assigns the dosage of DAA accordingly.
DID YOU KNOW?
BOCEPREVIR IS A PROTEASE INHIBITOR USED TO TREAT HEPATITIS CAUSED BY HEPATITIS C VIRUS.
It was initially developed by Schering-Plough, then by Merck after it acquired Schering in 2009. It was approved by the FDA in May 2011.