Today Hepatitis Australia is celebrating the news that the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2020 has been awarded jointly to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice ‘for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus’.

“Thanks to this ground-breaking discovery, people can now be tested, diagnosed and cured of hepatitis C. While we don’t yet have a vaccine, knowledge of the virus means we can prevent hepatitis C in at-risk communities,” said Carrie Fowlie, CEO of the national peak body Hepatitis Australia.

“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,” said Cary James, CEO of the World Hepatitis Alliance.

“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,” said Mr James.

“We congratulate Australian governments for their commitment to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030. Elimination is not aspirational, it is achievable. Elimination means a comprehensive response—improved prevention, diagnosis, treatment uptake, and reductions in mortality and stigma.” Said Ms Fowlie

“While good progress has been made to implement Australia’s national hepatitis strategies, we risk not meeting our 2022 targets. Australia must focus our efforts carefully to ensure scientific advances are matched by the achievement of national targets.”

“Every life lost to hepatitis C is preventable and hepatitis C can be cured.”

“Many of the people affected by hepatitis C in Australia got it years ago. The longer people have hepatitis the more likely they will develop liver disease including cancer. We encourage all Australians to ask their GP for a simple hepatitis blood test,” said Ms Fowlie.

Hepatitis Australia congratulates the joint Nobel Prize recipients. This deserved recognition brings much-needed awareness to hepatitis C, and we take this opportunity to remind all Australians that we can eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.

The National Hepatitis Infoline provides free, confidential support. Call 1800 437 222 to talk to someone in your State or Territory.

Download a copy of this release

6 October 2020