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‘It is literally horrific’: World Food Programme, Nobel Peace Prize winner, fights growing hunger emergency

“We’ve got a vaccine against starvation. It’s called food,” said David Beasley.

David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Programme, knows the existence of his organization is both a blessing and a curse: it helps so many, but that means many are suffering.

On Friday, that World Food Programme’s fight against hunger and work to prevent the use of hunger as “a weapon of war and conflict” was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Beasley, also the former governor of South Carolina, said the award came as a surprise, but is ultimately a testament to the organization’s much-needed work amid the pandemic.

PHOTO: Linsey Davis interviews the executive director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley on ABC News Prime after the organization won the Nobel Peace Prize Oct. 9, 2020.

Linsey Davis interviews the executive director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley after winning the Nobel Peace Prize Oct. 9, 2020.

“[COVID-19] comes on top of what you already thought was a worst-case scenario and it’s compounded, exacerbated problems around the world. … It is literally horrific,” Beasley told ABC News Prime host Linsey Davis.

At the beginning of this year, 135 million people already faced starvation from manmade conflict and climate extremes, Beasley said. Now, 270 million people are on the brink of starvation.

The award comes with the equivalent of a $1.1 million U.S. cash prize and a gold medal to be handed out at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death.

Beasley told ABC News Prime that the award money and government funding is critical in sustaining the program’s global effort in 2021.

“The economies of the world’s strongest nations on Earth are struggling. We are not going to have the money we need next year. And not only are the resources going to go down, but the needs are going to be going up,” said Beasley.

“We have 18,000 men and women that are out there in the field putting their lives on the line, every day, in war, conflict zones. You name it,” Beasley told ABC News.

He is currently working with the organization in Nigeria, a country that faces a threat from extremist terrorist groups and climate change.

“The good news and the bad news is the fact that we are winning [the award]. But that means

Nobel Peace Prize Shows the Link Between Hunger and Conflict | Best Countries

The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the United Nations World Food Program for its efforts to combat hunger, foster conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war. This choice starkly underscores growing concern about increasing global food insecurity and the clear connections between hunger and conflict.

Today, more than 820 million people – about 1 in 9 worldwide – do not have enough to eat. They suffer from food insecurity, or not having consistent access to the right foods to keep their bodies and brains healthy.

Humans need a varied diet that includes a range of critical nutrients. Food insecurity is especially important to young children and unborn babies because improper nutrition can permanently stunt brain development and growth.

Hunger has many causes. It can be a weapon of war; the result of a global pandemic like COVID-19 that disrupts production; or the result of climate change, as extreme weather events and shifting climates increase crop failures around the globe.

Meeting a global need

The World Food Program was created in the early 1960s at the behest of U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower. “We must never forget that there are hundreds of millions of people, particularly in the less developed parts of the world, suffering from hunger and malnutrition, even though a number of countries, my own included, are producing food in surplus,” Eisenhower said in a 1960 speech to the U.N. General Assembly. “This paradox should not be allowed to continue.”

While the U.S. was already providing direct food aid to needy countries, Eisenhower urged other nations to join in creating a system to provide food to member states through the United Nations. The WFP is now one of the world’s largest humanitarian agencies. In 2019 it assisted 97 million people in 88 countries.

The WFP both provides direct assistance and works to strengthen individual countries’ capacity to meet their people’s basic needs. With its own fleet of trucks, ships and planes, the agency carries out emergency response missions and delivers food and assistance directly to victims of war, civil conflict, droughts, floods, crop failures and other natural disasters.

When emergencies subside, WFP experts develop programs for relief and rehabilitation and provide developmental aid. Over 90% of its 17,000 staff members are based in countries where the agency provides assistance.

World map showing countries with highest rates of undernourishment and child wasting, stunting and mortality.
The Global Hunger Index attempts to assess the multidimensional nature of hunger by combining four key indicators of malnutrition into a single index score.
Our World in Data, CC BY

Links between hunger and conflict

The Nobel award recognizes a key connection between hunger and global conflict. As the U.N. Security Council emphasized in a 2018 resolution, humankind can never eliminate hunger without first establishing peace. Conflict causes rampant food insecurity: It disrupts infrastructure and social stability, making it hard for supplies to get to people who need them. Too often, warring parties may deliberately use starvation as a strategy.

Food insecurity also perpetuates conflict, as it drives

Nobel Peace Prize 2020 won by World Food Programme

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the World Food Programme (WFP) for its “efforts to combat hunger” and its “contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas.”



a large air plane flying in a clear blue sky: A World Food Programme food aid drop near a village in Ayod county, South Sudan, on February 6, 2020.


© TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images
A World Food Programme food aid drop near a village in Ayod county, South Sudan, on February 6, 2020.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which presented the award in Oslo on Friday, also described the organization as “a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.”

In awarding the prize, committee chair Berit Reiss-Andersen noted the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global food supplies and criticized the politics of populism.

The WFP, a United Nations entity, was created in 1961 and today provides food to over 100 million people a year.

The organization tweeted its “deepest thanks” for the honor, adding: “This is a powerful reminder to the world that peace and #ZeroHunger go hand-in-hand.”

It praised its staff who it said “put their lives on the line every day.”

Executive director David Beasley reacted with joy to the news of his organization’s Nobel win. “It’s the first time in my life I’ve actually been speechless, I really can’t believe it,” he told CNN’s Connect the World from Niger.

He said that the award was a “call to action,” urging people to “step up and step up now.”

“Where there’s starvation there’s conflict, destabilization and migration,” he said, adding that the world was now experiencing “all of those things coupled with Covid.”

Beasley warned there were “possibilities of famines of biblical proportions,” calling for billions of dollars in additional aid to save people around the globe.

“We’re looking for a vaccine for Covid; we have a vaccine for hunger — it’s called food, and we have the food. We need the money and the access to solve it,” he added.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director of the World Health Organization, which was itself tipped as a frontrunner for the award, praised the decision on Twitter. “Huge admiration and respect for the life-saving work you do for people in need everywhere,” he wrote.



a person riding a horse in a field: Villagers collect food aid dropped from a World Food Programme plane to a village in Ayod county, South Sudan, in February 2020.


© TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images
Villagers collect food aid dropped from a World Food Programme plane to a village in Ayod county, South Sudan, in February 2020.

Tunisian actress Hend Sabry, a WFP ambassador, said she was “proud” of her role and wrote that the organization “is mainly a web of wonderful people from all around the world, doing their best to fight hunger.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said the need for international solidarity and multilateral cooperation was more conspicuous than ever. It said it wanted to turn the eyes of the world towards the millions of people who suffer from or face the threat of hunger.

“The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world,” said Reiss-Andersen.

“In the face of the pandemic, the World Food Programme has demonstrated an impressive ability to

2 scientists win Nobel chemistry prize for gene-editing tool

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Two scientists won the Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday for developing a way of editing genes likened to “molecular scissors” that offer the promise of one day curing inherited diseases.

Working on opposite sides of the Atlantic, Frenchwoman Emmanuelle Charpentier and American Jennifer A. Doudna came up with a method known as CRISPR-cas9 that can be used to change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms. It was the first time two women have won the chemistry Nobel together — adding to the small number of female laureates in the sciences, where women have long received less recognition for their work than men.

The scientists’ work allows for laser-sharp snips in the long strings of DNA that make up the “code of life,” allowing researchers to precisely edit specific genes to remove errors that lead to disease.

“There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all,” said Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry. “It has not only revolutionized basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to groundbreaking new medical treatments.”

Gustafsson said that, as a result, any genome can now be edited “to fix genetic damage.”


Dr. Francis Collins, who led the drive to map the human genome, said the technology “has changed everything” about how to approach diseases with a genetic cause, such as sickle cell disease.

“You can draw a direct line from the success of the human genome project to the power of CRISPR-cas to make changes in the instruction book,” said Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health that helped fund Doudna’s work.

But many also cautioned that the technology must be used carefully and that it raises serious ethical questions. Much of the world became more aware of CRISPR in 2018, when Chinese scientist He Jiankui revealed he had helped make the world’s first gene-edited babies, to try to engineer resistance to future infection with the AIDS virus. His work was denounced as unsafe human experimentation because of the risk of causing unintended changes that could pass to future generations, and he’s currently imprisoned in China.

In September, an international panel of experts issued a report saying it’s still too soon to try to make genetically edited babies because the science isn’t advanced enough to ensure safety, but they mapped a pathway for countries that want to consider it.

“Being able to selectively edit genes means that you are playing God in a way,” said American Chemistry Society President Luis Echegoyen, a chemistry professor at the University of Texas El Paso.

Charpentier, 51, spoke of the shock of winning.

“Strangely enough I was told a number of times (that I’d win), but when it happens you’re very surprised and you feel that it’s not real,” she told reporters by phone from Berlin after the award was announced in Stockholm by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. “But obviously it’s real, so I have to get used to it now.”

When asked

Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer Doudna win Nobel Prize in Chemistry for genome editing tool

Oct. 7 (UPI) — A French scientist and an American professor were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for their work in developing a “genetic scissors” used to fight human diseases.

Emmanuelle Charpentier, a French-born researcher and director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Germany, and Jennifer Doudna, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, were given the chemistry prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced in Stockholm.

The pair worked together to help develop the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editor, which is capable of cutting DNA genomes in precise locations and allowing researchers to add or delete pieces of genetic material or make changes by replacing an existing segment with a customized sequence.

The tool’s development has led to widespread applications for genome editing — and is faster, more accurate, more efficient and less expensive than other existing methods.

The CRISPR/Cas9 system is used to research a wide variety of diseases, including single-gene disorders including cystic fibrosis, hemophilia and sickle cell disease. It also holds some promise for treating and preventing complex diseases like cancer, heart disease, mental illness and HIV/AIDS.

Genome editing has also found a strong presence in agriculture, where it’s used to develop crops resistant to mold, pests and drought.

After publishing an initial discovery in 2011, Charpentier teamed with Doudna to develop the “genetic scissors” to make it easier to use. The next year, they proved it could be controlled and used to cut any DNA molecule at a predetermined site.

“There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all,” Claes Gustafsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said in a statement Wednesday. “It has not only revolutionized basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments.”

Due to ethical considerations, scientists are limited to using CRISPR/Cas9 in humans on somatic cells — cells other than egg and sperm cells. Changes made in those cells are not passed from one generation to the next.

The Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded Monday to Americans Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice and Briton Michael Houghton for their work on curing Hepatitis C; the prize for physics was given Tuesday to Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for their research on black holes.

The Nobel Prize in Literature will be awarded Thursday, the peace prize on Friday and the prize for economic sciences on Oct. 12.

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The Nobel Prize in Medicine goes to the trio that discovered hepatitis C

Earlier today, the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three scientists, Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton, and Charles M. Rice, who discovered the hepatitis C virus. The Hepatitis C virus was first discovered in 1989 and had previously been called non-A, non-B hepatitis.



a hand holding a coin: For many years, not knowing what hepatitis C was made blood transfusions incredibly risky.


© Provided by Popular Science
For many years, not knowing what hepatitis C was made blood transfusions incredibly risky.

Globally, an estimated 71 million people currently are infected with hepatitis C, which causes liver disease. In 2016, nearly 400,000 people died from cirrhosis and liver cancer as a result of the virus.

The first form of hepatitis, now called hepatitis A, was discovered in the 1940s, and was spread by contaminated food and water. By the 1960′s, researchers discovered another form, hepatitis B, a blood-borne liver infection. However, some patients undergoing blood transfusions were still mysteriously falling ill, thanks to a then-unknown pathogen we now know as hepatitis C, making a transfusion during this time a bit like “Russian roulette,” according to the Guardian.

Nobel-winner Alter, now at the US National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, made the first giant leap towards uncovering hepatitis C back in the 1970′s when he isolated a third blood-borne pathogen in addition to hepatitis A and B that could transmit the disease to chimpanzees, the only other susceptible host besides humans, according to the Nobel Institute.

Gallery: Dr. Fauci Reveals Your Risk Factors For COVID (ETNT Health)

Next, Houghton, who was then working for a pharmaceutical firm named Chiron, collected DNA and RNA from infected chimpanzees to try and identify the mysterious virus. Houghton and his team then put the collection of DNA into bacteria to see if any of the bacterial colonies could recreate a protein typically only created by the mysterious virus, which would lead them to the culprit causing the disease. Only one out of a million colonies were able to code the protein for the virus, and the researchers were able to show that the virus belonged to the Flavivirus family, and it was named hepatitis C. Blood tests were developed, largely knocking out any chance of the virus spreading through blood transmissions, according to Science Magazine.



a hand holding a coin: For many years, not knowing what hepatitis C was made blood transfusions incredibly risky.


© Adam Baker
For many years, not knowing what hepatitis C was made blood transfusions incredibly risky.

Rice, then a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, took the final step in proving that the virus alone could cause the chronic disease seen in humans by testing out genetic variants in chimpanzee livers, according to the Nobel Committee.

Now, antiviral treatments for hepatitis C can cure nearly 95 percent of infected patients. But as of five years ago, there were 23.7 new hepatitis C infections per 100,000 people according to the WHO. Activities such as injected drug use, using unsterilized medical equipment, and sexual practices that can expose a partner to blood are still common transmission avenues.

Scientists hope that this prize will bring momentum to research that’ll help rid the world of

A US-British trio wins the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering the liver-ravaging hepatitis C virus [Video]

SHOTLIST

STOCKHOLM, SWEDENOCTOBER 5, 2020SOURCE: AFPTV

1. SOUNDBITE 1 – Thomas Perlmann , Nobel Assembly secretary (male, English, 22 sec): “The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award the 2020 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine jointly to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice for the discover of Hepatitis C virus. “

SOLNA, SWEDEN STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN OCTOBER 5, 2020 SOURCE: AFPTV

2. Cutaway: Secretary General of the Nobel Committee Thomas Perlmann making the announcement with photos of the laureates on the screen

BETHESDA, MARYLAND, UNITED STATESOCTOBER 5, 2020SOURCE: NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTHRESTRICTIONS: NO RESALEEDITORIAL USE ONLY

3. SOUNDBITE 2 – Dr. Harvey Alter, Nobel Laureate in Medicine (male, english, 16 sec): “A vaccine is still a goal, but it’s been very difficult to do – just like for HIV, it’s a highly mutable virus, and it’s very difficult to develop an effective immune response for a vaccine, but we’re still hopeful.”

UNDEFINEDOCTOBER 5, 2020SOURCE: HANDOUT / ROCKEFELLER UNIVERSITYRESTRICTIONS: NO RESALE

4. SOUNDBITE 3 – Charles Rice, virologist at the Rockefeller University and co-winner of the 2020 Nobel Medicine Prize (male, English, 23 sec): “The success of these drug treatments for hepatitis C and the fact that you can actually eliminate the virus, you can actually cure people, you can get rid of it, I think has renewed enthusiasm in people to see if we couldn’t achieve that for other chronic viral infections like hepatitis B and HIV.”

///———————————————————–AFP TEXT STORY:

newseriesUS-British trio win Nobel Medicine Prize for Hepatitis C discovery By Pia OHLIN

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ATTENTION – ADDS Rice reax, laureates working on Covid-19 vaccine ///Stockholm, Oct 5, 2020 (AFP) – Americans Harvey Alter and Charles Rice together with Briton Michael Houghton won the Nobel Medicine Prize on Monday for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus, paving the way for a cure, the Nobel jury said.The three were honoured for their “decisive contribution to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis, a major global health problem that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer in people around the world,” the jury said.The World Health Organization estimates there are around 70 million Hepatitis C infections globally, causing around 400,000 deaths each year. It is characterized by poor appetite, vomiting, fatigue and jaundice.Thanks to the trio’s discoveries, highly sensitive blood tests for the virus are now available and these have “essentially eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in many parts of the world, greatly improving global health”, the Nobel committee said.Their discoveries allowed the rapid development of antiviral drugs directed at Hepatitis C. “For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating Hepatitis C virus from the world population,” the jury said.Alter, 85, told the Nobel Foundation he was “in shock” after receiving an early-morning call from the committee, saying he didn’t answer the first two times.”The third time I got up angrily to answer it… and it was Stockholm,” he said.”To see so many people get cured, and nobody getting post-transfusion hepatitis, that’s astounding

U.S., British hepatitis C researchers win Nobel Prize in Medicine

Oct. 5 (UPI) — Three scientists who each played a role in finding a cure for hepatitis C have won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the Nobel Foundation announced Monday.

Americans Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice and Briton Michael Houghton won the 2020 prize for their separate work in battling hepatitis C, a blood-borne disease that causes cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.

The disease is associated with significant morbidity and mortality and causes more than 1 million deaths per year worldwide, making it a global health threat on a scale comparable to HIV infection and tuberculosis.

The prize was announced during a ceremony at the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, which awards the honor each year.

Two other types of hepatitis — A and B — had been identified earlier, but a still-unknown form had continued to affect blood transfusion patients.

In the 1970s, Alter, working at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, first showed that the condition was caused by a previously unknown, distinct virus, later named the hepatitis C virus.

Identifying the virus, however, eluded researchers for more than a decade. Houghton, then working for the Chiron Corp. in California, was able to isolate the genetic sequence of the virus in 1989, providing a key breakthrough.

With the virus identified, researchers still needed to prove that it alone was capable of causing hepatitis. Rice, a scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, provided the link in 2005 after eight years of research.

The scientists’ contributions have “essentially eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in many parts of the world, greatly improving global health,” the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine said.

“Their discovery also allowed the rapid development of antiviral drugs directed at hepatitis C,” it added. “For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating hepatitis C virus from the world population.”

The Nobel Institute’s two other scientific prizes — for physics and chemistry — will be announced Tuesday and Wednesday. They will be followed by the literature prize on Thursday, the peace prize on Friday and economic sciences on Oct. 12.

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Americans and Briton win Nobel Prize in medicine for discovery of Hepatitis C virus

Researchers Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice have won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus, the committe announced on Monday.

Prior to their work, the committee said, the discovery of the Hepatitis A and B viruses had been critical steps forward, but the majority of blood-borne hepatitis cases was still unexplained.

“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,” the statement shared by the committee said.

Alter and Rice were both born in the U.S. while Hougton was born in the U.K.

An estimated 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C virus infection, according to the World Health Organization. A significant number of those who are chronically infected will develop cirrhosis, scarring of the liver caused by long-term liver damage, or liver cancer.

Each laureate made a significant contribution to Hepatitis C research, with much of their work dating back to the 1970s and 1980s.

The studies of transfusion-associated hepatitis conducted by Alter demonstrated that an unknown virus was a common cause of chronic hepatitis.

“To see so many people get cured is astounding,” Alter told the committee after getting the news Monday morning that he will share the prize.

Houghton worked to isolate the genome of the new virus while Rice provided the final evidence showing that Hepatitis C virus alone could cause hepatitis.

Thanks to their work, highly sensitive blood tests and antiviral treatments for the virus are now available.

“For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating Hepatitis C virus from the world population,” the committee said.

The award comes with a gold medal and prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor (over $1,118,000), courtesy of a bequest left 124 years ago by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.

The Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine has been awarded 110 times to 219 Nobel laureates between 1901 and 2019.

Two Americans and a Briton won the medicine prize last year for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.

This year, the medicine prize carries particular significance amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has highlighted the importance of medical research.

The pandemic has meant that the Nobel ceremonies will have a lower profile this year with many of the traditional celebrations postponed or re-jigged as digital events.

The foundation has cancelled the banquet, the highlight of the celebrations that takes place every December, and the traditional prize-giving ceremony in Stockholm’s Concert Hall will be replaced by a televised event where winners receive their prizes in their home nations.

Prizes in physics, chemistry,

Nobel prize in medicine awarded to US-UK trio for work on hepatitis C

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Two Americans and a British scientist have won the 2020 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for their groundbreaking work on blood-borne hepatitis, a health problem that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer around the world.



a man standing in front of a flat screen television: Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

Harvey J Alter at the US National Institutes of Health in Maryland, Charles M Rice from Rockefeller University in New York, and Michael Houghton, a British virologist at the University of Alberta in Canada, were honoured for their joint discovery of the hepatitis C virus, a major cause of liver disease.

The award, announced on Monday by the Nobel assembly from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, is worth 10m Swedish kronor (£870,000), which will be shared among the winners.

“Thanks to their discovery, highly sensitive blood tests for the virus are now available and these have essentially eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in many parts of the world, greatly improving global health,” the Nobel committee said.

Speaking of how he heard the news, Alter said he ignored the phone twice when it rang before 5am local time. “The third time I got up angrily to answer it and it was Stockholm. It’s a weird experience,” he said. “It’s the best alarm clock I’ve ever had.” Rice said he was “absolutely stunned” on receiving the call, adding “it is a success story for team science.”



a man standing in front of a flat screen television: Nobel committee member Patrik Ernfors sits in front of a screen displaying the winners, (from left) Harvey Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles Rice, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday.


© Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images
Nobel committee member Patrik Ernfors sits in front of a screen displaying the winners, (from left) Harvey Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles Rice, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday.

The prize may prove controversial. In 2013, Houghton refused a major award for his hepatitis C work because it excluded two former co-workers, George Quo and Qui-Lim Choo who helped him identify the virus. Houghton, who received his PhD from King’s College London in 1977, said his colleagues did not get the recognition they deserved.

David Pendlebury, a citation analyst at Clarivate, a scientific data firm, said he was surprised the Nobel committee had made the award. “There’s no question about the importance of this work and the worthiness of this prize, but one assumes the Nobel committee tries to avoid controversy where possible,” he said. The award threw into high relief the perennial issue of the Nobel’s rule of three, he added, where no more than three researchers can be named for discoveries that have often been team efforts.

Houghton accepted the Nobel but said he hoped future award committees would recognise larger groups of scientists. “Great science, often, is a group of people and I think going forward we somehow need to acknowledge that,” he said.

The scientists’ work transformed the understanding and treatment of hepatitis C, a virus that infects more than 70 million people, and kills 400,000 a year, according to the World Health Organization.

In the 1940s, doctors knew there were two