WHA statement: scientists who discovered hepatitis C virus awarded Nobel Prize

5 Oct 2020 Lucy Ferrier

On the announcement of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2020 being awarded jointly to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice "for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus.”

WHA CEO Cary James said: 

“Hepatitis C has been one of the most overlooked health crises of our time. It has claimed millions of lives and continues to have a massive impact on people, communities and wider health systems. 

“The discovery of the hepatitis C virus in 1989 was the first step on an important scientific journey that has led to a place where we have the real possibility of eliminating hepatitis within the next decade. Thanks to the ground-breaking work of Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice, we now know how to diagnose, prevent and even cure hepatitis C. In doing so, we can save millions of lives, and improve millions more. 

“Now, we must turn these scientific advances into real-world impact. Worldwide, fewer than one in five of the 71 million people living with hepatitis C has been diagnosed. Each year the virus claims almost 400,000 lives – lives that can be saved through earlier diagnosis, improved linkage to care, and universal access to effective curative therapies. Many of the people affected by viral hepatitis are those most underserved by health systems, so it is essential that we reach these communities and leave no one behind in our bid to eliminate the condition.

 “The World Hepatitis Alliance congratulates the joint recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. We hope that the prize brings much-needed awareness to hepatitis C, and call on global leaders and decision-makers to stand by their commitment to eliminating viral hepatitis through decisive political action and improved funding for the hepatitis response.”