Indian Journal of Pathology and Microbiology

: 2021  |  Volume : 64  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 1-

Hepatitis C Nobel Prize: The exhumation

Ranjan Agrawal 
 MD; FIC Path; MIAC, DHA, Professor, Department of Pathology, Rohilkhand Medical College and Hospital, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, India

Correspondence Address:
Ranjan Agrawal
MD; FIC Path; MIAC, DHA, Professor, Department of Pathology, Rohilkhand Medical College and Hospital, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh

How to cite this article:
Agrawal R. Hepatitis C Nobel Prize: The exhumation.Indian J Pathol Microbiol 2021;64:1-1

How to cite this URL:
Agrawal R. Hepatitis C Nobel Prize: The exhumation. Indian J Pathol Microbiol [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Sep 22 ];64:1-1
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Dear Readers,

Greetings of the day! After the much special applauded issue on genitourinary, gynecologic, and breast pathology published in 2020, we bring to you our second special issue on gastrointestinal, hepatobiliary, and pancreatic pathology. There can be nothing better than having this special issue especially when the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was announced recently on October 5, 2020 being awarded to an important discovery of Hepatitis C virus which leads to Hepatitis. This pioneer research provided explanations to numerous cases of chronic hepatitis that were not caused by Hepatitis A or B viruses. It also paved way for the development of investigations and medications that saved a large number of patients. The awardees-Harvey J Alter, Michael Houghton, and Charles M Rice were instrumental in the discovery of this novel virus, all contributing separately.

After the identification of Hepatitis A and B, Harvey J Alter observed that patients with blood transfusion developed chronic liver disease not caused by either of these two viruses. This “non-A, non-B” virus was later termed as “Hepatitis C.”[1],[2] Initially, all the methods for its isolation failed and for many years it remained undetected. It was then that Michael Houghton ventured into isolating the viral genetic sequence. His team isolated DNA fragments from the virus infected Chimpanzee assuming that the blood would have antibodies. Later, the clone isolated was identified to be derived from RNA virus of the Flavivirus family.[3] Another pertinent question that haunted the scientists all over was, whether the isolated virus labelled as (HCV) could alone cause hepatitis? The third Nobel Laureate, Charles M Rice through his research provided definite clue associating a direct proof that the virus alone can be the cause of unexplained transfusion–transmitted infection of liver.[4]

The Nobel committee felt that this virus—Hepatitis C is an important cause of infection and its discovery has paved the way for timely diagnosis, prevention of transmission, screening investigative methods, and most importantly a step towards global eradication saving mortality of nearly 1.5 million lives. In 2016, WHO had set up the goal of elimination of HCV by 2030.[5],[6] An early diagnosis is an important step toward achieving this goal. Although all the three scientists played separate role in relation to HCV, it was felt that their combined effort marked a landmark discovery in the field of Science. The virus was detected more than 50 years back, but after so many years it was realized that this discovery was vital for the community at large. Baruch Blumberg in 1976 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of Hepatitis B virus and development of the first-generation Hepatitis B virus vaccine.

The award carries a great significance especially since we all are presently under the influence of a viral pandemic—coronavirus, which carries health risks for the society, as well affects the economy of both the developing and the developed countries. It is interesting to note that recognition of HCV was given due acknowledgement. I am sure that this short write-up would help the readers understand the steps behind the discovery of HCV that has been and credited with the highest honor in the field of Medicine.

Jai Hind!


1Alter HJ, Holland PV, Purcell RH, Lander JJ, Feinstone SM, Morrow AG, et al. Post transfusion hepatitis after exclusion of commercial and hepatitis – B antigen-positive donors. Ann Intern Med 1972;77:691-9.
2Alter HJ, Holland PV, Morrow AG, Purcell RH, Feinstone SM, Moritsugu Y. Clinical and serological analysis of transfusion – associated hepatitis Lancet 1975;2:838-41.
3Wakita T,Pietschmann T, Kato T, Date T, Miyamoto M, Zhao Z, et al Production of infectious hepatitis C virus in tissue culture from a cloned genome. Nat Med 2005; 11:791-6.
4Kolykhalov AA, Agapov EV, Blight KJ, Mihalik K, Feinstone SM, Rice CM. Transmission of hepatitis C by intrahepatic inoculation with transcribed RNA. Science 1997;277:570-4.
5Ward JW. The Nobel Prize for discovery of HCV is a call to end hepatitis. Lancet 2020;396:1733.
6WHO. Progress report on HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections 2019. Accountability for the global health sector strategies, 2016-21. Geneva:World Health Organization, 2019.