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The medicine prize carried particular significance in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the importance that medical research has for societies and economies across the world

Two Americans Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice and one British-born scientist Michael Houghton won the 2020 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for work in identifying the Hepatitis C virus, which causes cirrhosis and liver cancer, the award-giving body said on 5 October.

The head of the Nobel Committee, Thomas Perlmann, announced the winners in Stockholm on Monday.

The 2020 #NobelPrize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded jointly to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice “for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus. pic.twitter.com/MDHPmbiFmS

A five-member Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute screens nominations and chooses candidates for the prize in medicine. "Prior to their work, the discovery of the Hepatitis A and B viruses had been critical steps forward," the Nobel Assembly at Sweden's Karolinska Institute said in a statement on awarding the prize of 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.1 million).

"The discovery of Hepatitis C virus revealed the cause of the remaining cases of chronic hepatitis and made possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives." ($1 = 8.9053 Swedish crowns)

70 mn cases of hepatitis worldwide, 4 lakh deaths

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there are more than 70 million cases of hepatitis worldwide and 400,000 deaths each year. The disease is chronic and a major cause of liver inflammation and cancer.

The medicine prize carried particular significance this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has highlighted the importance that medical research has for societies and economies around the world.

The award is the first of six prizes being announced through 12 October. The other prestigious prizes are for outstanding work in the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics.

The 2020 Nobel Prizes kicked off Monday with the naming of the winner, or winners, in the field of physiology or medicine.

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