The 2020 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology has been jointly awarded to the three scientists who discovered the Hepatitis C virus.
Americans Harvey J Alter and Charles M Rice, and British-born Michael Houghton were revealed on Monday as this year’s laureates for the medical breakthrough touted as saving millions of lives.
In a statement, the Nobel Assembly said the isolation of Hepatitis C had marked a “landmark achievement in the ongoing battle against viral diseases” and had resulted in the creation of specific testing regimen and cures to tackle the illness around the world.
Born in 1935 in New York, Alter carried out his prize winning studies at the US National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, where he remains active.
Rice, meanwhile, was born in 1952 in Sacramento, California, later working at the Washington University in St Louis before moving to Rockefeller University in New York.
Michael Houghton was born in the UK in 1950, and undertook his studies at the Chiron Corporation in California before moving to the University of Alberta in Canada.
This year’s prize comes at a particularly significant time for those working in the medical field, given the additional spotlight brought by coronavirus.
But despite the pandemic’s huge effect on the world and its highlighting of the importance of science and medical research, the 2020 winner was not expected to be COVID-related.
This is due to winners usually being picked from discoveries made years ago, and whom provided the basis of practical applications commonly used today.
The discovery of Hepatitis C in the late 1980s came as scientists grew increasingly concerned that tests for the Hepatitis B virus accounted for only a minority of the hepatitis cases resulting from blood transfusion.
Hepatitis A, meanwhile, is not a blood-borne illness and can be spread through close personal contact.
To isolate the unknown infectious agent, Alter was able to demonstrate that an as-yet-unknown virus was the cause of chronic hepatitis, while Houghton used an untested strategy to isolate the genome later called Hepatitis C.
Charles Rice completed the discovery by gathering evidence to prove Hepatitis C alone could cause chronic hepatitis.
The bodily effect of Hepatitis C is devastating when left untreated, and can ultimately be life-threatening.
Primarily attacking the liver, the virus can lead to serious scarring, known as cirrhosis, or cause deadly liver failure and cancer.
Alter, Houghton and Rice are now set to receive a gold medal for their Nobel award, along with prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor (€956,000) from a bequest left by Swedish inventor Alfred Novel 124 years ago.
This amount was recently increased to adjust for inflation.
Announcing the recipients, Thomas Perlmann, the Secretary-General of the Nobel Committee said he had managed to reach Alter and Rice by phone to inform them of the news.
He said: “I had to call a couple of times before they answered. They seemed very surprised and very, very happy.”
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Winnipeg students devastated after COVID restrictions silence school choirs – CBC.ca
Hundreds of students in Winnipeg have been ordered by the provincial government to stop singing — something a choir teacher says was an ill-informed decision impacting the mental health of students.
“I was just so extremely disappointed because I do not believe the decision was based upon solid ground,” said Maples Collegiate choral teacher Dorothy Dyck.
Since Oct. 26, schools in the Winnipeg metropolitan area and northern Manitoba have been under a code orange in the province’s pandemic response system.
One of the new rules is that indoor choir and the use of wind instruments are not permitted.
That decision is affecting 250 students at Maples Collegiate who participate in six choirs, Dyck said.
Dyck said she doesn’t think Manitoba’s health officials knew all the precautions her school has taken.
“We didn’t get any directive from the province at all,” she said. “We had to figure it out, and so we did. We spent all summer reading, and researching, and waiting for these studies to come out,” she said.
“Out of these studies, things were brought forward for keeping singing as safe as possible, and that’s what we were doing,” Dyck said.
Singing with masks on for 30 minutes in the gym
Along with singing in masks, the rehearsal time was also limited to 30 minutes, something the study out of Colorado found dropped the rate of infection from 87 per cent down to just 12.
The Maples choirs also moved to the gymnasium so everyone could spread out in an open space.
Dyck said the school division’s head of maintenance climbed up into the vents of the gym to get information about the ductwork. A math teacher calculated the air ventilation to determine air was being exchanged every five minutes.
We are as safe as any other activity.– Dorothy Dyck, Maples Collegiate choral teacher
“No one is saying that we can guarantee that things are completely safe,” Dyck said. “We now can point to those numbers and know that we are as safe as any other activity.”
A spokesperson for the provincial government says its guidelines on music are based on multiple reports globally where participation in a choir was associated with “super-spreader” events, where COVID-19 was spread to many people.
“Infected people may transmit the virus over greater distances through their saliva or respiratory droplets while singing,” the spokesperson wrote.
To date, there have been three confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Maples Collegiate, principal Scott Shier said.
Dyck said the province should take a second look at how schools were running their choirs, rather than just banning them outright.
“They’re kids that are just trying to find their voices,” she said.
She says she worries the pandemic is affecting the mental health of students.
“We see their dead eyes. Their body language: they’re slumped forward, their arms are limp, they don’t really raise their hands when they’re asking questions,” she said.
“We’ve really worked hard at trying to use choir and trying to use singing as breathing life into their bodies and changing their eyes, and we had just started to see some real progress.”
‘Devastated’ at province’s decision
Jashdane Santiago, a Grade 11 student and member of three choirs, said she’s struggling to accept that she can’t sing in choir anymore.
“I was very much devastated,” Santiago said.
“Being in choir feels like you’re flying. But then with the news saying that you can’t sing anymore, it just felt like the wings that I’ve been flying with were just clipped,” she said.
The choirs already can’t perform, so it was an extra blow to have their rehearsals taken away, she said.
“Everyone had really high hopes that we could still do what we would normally do, but just a bit different than before.”
Javen Cabrera, a Grade 12 student, said he didn’t take the news well either.
“It was heartbreaking,” Cabrera said. “I was confused, hurt, and really angry.”
The pair said they would be happy to take any extra precautions if it meant they could keep singing.
“Singing with other people reminds me that I’m not alone,” Cabrera said.
The superintendent for Seven Oaks School Division said the they are in discussions with the province about the new rules.
“We’re trying to make the province aware of some of the measures the teachers have taken. We’re doing everything we can to keep a strong program going,” Brian O’Leary said.
3 deaths, 170 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba as hospitalizations continue to rise – CBC.ca
A man in his 40s from the Interlake-Eastern Health region is one of three more people with COVID-19 who have died in Manitoba, while 170 more people have tested positive for the virus, Manitoba public health officials announced Wednesday.
A man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Victoria General Hospital in Winnipeg and a woman in her 80s from the Interlake-Eastern Health region linked to an outbreak at the Misericordia Place care home are the two other people who died.
That brings the death toll from the coronavirus in the province to 61 since the start of the pandemic.
Health officials continue to see cases linked to people not following public health advice by attending large gatherings and leaving their homes even though they have symptoms, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at a news conference Wednesday.
Many cases have been linked to Thanksgiving and other gatherings where people are often sharing items such as vape pens, Roussin said.
In one example, seven cases were linked to the same Thanksgiving dinner.
Other cases have been linked to people travelling to different parts of the province to visit family, “only to bring the virus with them,” he said.
“And so we can see how our close contacts can quickly become cases and more contacts.”
Hospitalizations climb to new heights
The number of hospitalizations and intensive care patients set new records on Wednesday, with 89 people in hospital, 19 of them in intensive care. That’s up from the previous record of 83 set on Tuesday, when 15 people were in the ICU.
“The capacity is continuing to be further stretched,” Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa said at the news conference, with ICU capacity at 92 per cent, which is higher than it was on Monday.
There are still beds for patients and supplies, she said.
“Our most precious resource right now is our staff,” she said.
A total of 43 surgeries have been cancelled, some because staff are isolating due to exposure to the virus, others because of changes meant to protect staff, Siragusa said.
Manitoba’s five-day test-positivity rate — the rolling average of the number of COVID-19 tests that come back positive — is 7.3, down slightly from the record high of 7.5 on Tuesday.
The announcement of 170 cases is the third highest number the province has recorded.
Most of the new cases are in the Winnipeg health region, where 117 people have tested positive. There are 26 new cases in the Interlake-Eastern health region, 18 in the Southern Health region, six in the Northern Health region, and three in the Prairie Mountain Health region.
A total of 4,701 people in Manitoba have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. Provincial health data shows 2,334 active cases and 2,306 people recovered, although health officials have said that active case numbers are likely inflated because of a backlog.
Cross Lake First Nation has moved to the critical red level on the province’s pandemic response system after multiple people tested positive in the community. The cases are linked to a funeral attended by someone who didn’t have symptoms but later tested positive for COVID-19, which the province announced on Tuesday.
An outbreak at the St. Norbert Personal Care Home has been declared over, health officials said.
The latest numbers come one day after Manitoba set new records for daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
The province recorded its highest number of new cases in a single day on Tuesday, reporting 184 people tested positive for the virus.
The number of people in hospital has tripled in 10 days, growing from 29 on Oct. 19 to 89 on Wednesday.
Health Minister Cameron Friesen tried to quell fears that hospitals were on the brink of being overwhelmed at a news conference on Tuesday.
Case numbers are trending in the wrong direction, but the health system still has capacity, he said.
“We are planning accordingly. We are not at a breaking point,” Friesen said.
As of Tuesday, the St. Boniface outbreak had led to infections in 23 patients and 10 staff, while the Victoria outbreak infected 19 patients and 19 staff.
The province announced a 19th death in an outbreak at the Parkview Place personal care home, where 104 residents have tested positive in the facility that housed 221 people as of last Friday.
Revera, the for-profit company that runs Parkview Place, also operates the Maples Long Term Care Home, where 69 of the facility’s 200 residents had tested positive by Tuesday, up from 35 on Monday.
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