Discovery of Hepatitis C By 2020 Medicine Nobel Laureates

Discovery of Hepatitis C By 2020 Medicine Nobel Laureates

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2020 has been awarded to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice, for their discovery of the Hepatitis C virus. What is the hepatitis family of viruses? What is the significance of this finding?

Crux of the Matter

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 Exist?
FiveHepatitis 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.

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 novel RNA virus belonging to the Flavivirus family and named it Hepatitis C.

What About Charles Rice?
Charles used genetic engineering to understand if this new virus alone could cause hepatitis. He generated an RNA variant of the virus and injected it into the liver of chimpanzees. The virus was then detected in the blood and the chimpanzees exhibited changes similar to those seen in humans infected with the disease.

Is Hepatitis C Curable?
Yes, as per WHO, 95% cases of Hepatitis C are 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. At the end of the treatment, a blood test is done to see if the virus has been cleared and a second blood test 12 or 24 weeks, after the treatment has stopped.

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. This step would help boost the morale of researchers working in the Covid-19 pandemic caused by SARS-COV-2 virus.

What Would Be The Next Step?
A world with access to more affordable testing methods and viral therapeutics, that can help improve the quality of human life and reduce deaths.

  • Boceprevir is a protease inhibitor used to treat hepatitis caused by hepatitis C virus genotype 1. 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.
  • Emil von Behring was a German physiologist who received the 1901 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the first one awarded in that field, for his discovery of a diphtheria antitoxin. He was widely known as a “saviour of children,” as diphtheria used to be a major cause of child death. 
  • The first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was Gerty Cori, who received it in 1947 for her role in elucidating the metabolism of glucose, important in many aspects of medicine, including treatment of diabetes.

PANACHE Launched by P&G Health for India’s Gen X Doctors

Procter & Gamble Health Limited (formerly known as Merck Limited) today announced the launch of PANACHE – a first of its kind platform to support India’s Gen X doctors in their medical education journey.

Crux of the Matter
  • PANACHE will assist medical students in honing crucial skills for holistic patient care such as medico–legal aspects, ethics, role of technology and soft skills like emotional intelligence.
  • Participants from more than 250 medical colleges across 130 cities will go through 2 rounds of online quiz assessments culminating in a live quiz for the final round at the APICON 2020.
  • Top 3 PANACHE winners will be offered a scholarship for further education by P&G Health
  • More than 10,200 students have already enrolled for PANACHE nationwide.
  • Participants from more than 250 colleges across 130 cities will go through 2 rounds of online quiz assessments culminating in a live quiz for the final round at the APICON 2020.

Medical students have to develop a well-rounded personality with a sound grasp of both medical and general knowledge. Along with diagnosing and treating patients, good communication skills are essential, as is a sympathetic yet firm attitude as doctors help patients and caregivers manage both treatable and untreatable conditions. More Info

Indian Scientist Make Breakthrough Discovery for Tackling TB

Indian scientists from JNU and AIIMS have found that the BCG vaccine for tuberculosis can be bolstered with curcumin nano-particles, the active ingredient of turmeric. This opens new avenues for tackling TB and the novel method is ready for clinical trials.

Crux of the Matter
  • Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG), which was discovered in 1921, is the world’s only vaccine for Tuberculosis.
  • Gobardhan Das, the primary investigator of the study said, “We’ve found that the TB bacteria hijack the genetic machinery of mesenchymal stem cells and hide within tiny lipid droplets inside the stem cells, safe from the immune system and safe from antibiotics during anti-TB treatment.”
  • Tuberculosis bacteria currently persists in the human body for years. The study implies that adding immuno-suppressant medicine to current anti-TB treatment can help eliminate the bacteria altogether.
  • The breakthrough research is expected to open avenues for therapeutic methods to deal with doemant TB bacteria.

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections do not have symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis. About 10% of latent infections progress to active disease which, if left untreated, kills about half of those affected. The classic symptoms of active TB are a chronic cough with blood-containing mucus, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. It was historically called “consumption” due to the weight loss. Infection of other organs can cause a wide range of symptoms. Tuberculosis is spread through the air when people who have active TB in their lungs cough, spit, speak, or sneeze. People with latent TB do not spread the disease. More Info