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From the Hantaanvirus to MERS to COVID, Action starts from empa...
  • Writer : KU TODAY
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  • Date : 2020-06-05


History
From the Hantaanvirus to MERS to COVID
Action starts from empathy

 


They say that a friend in need is a friend, indeed and that from the darkness, heroes emerge. Right when fears of contagious diseases were starting to fade in the wake of the MERS crisis, South Korea is experiencing an unprecedented crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, even when a whole nation is in panic mode, there are people who silently walk in their fields of expertise and become beacons for those that have lost their way. They are the researchers and medical staff at Korea University, who have provided answers to the tough questions and provided benevolent care to ease pain. They practice for the good of the public in facing infectious diseases that threaten humanity, they practice ‘for the good of the public.’ I would like to reflect on the research achievements made through their dedicated efforts to overcome the difficulties of the nation and our neighbors.’

The community spirit of Korea University’s members is life-enhancing. It is in the DNA of each member of the community, and it goes beyond diseases by also healing patients’ hearts.



During the Korean War, more than 3,000 foreign soldiers died of unknown diseases. Three Nobel Prize winners were dispatched to try to find the cause, but all failed. But one Korean researcher was able to break through. This was Lee Ho-wang, emeritus professor at Korea University. In 1976, Professor Han, also known by his pen name, Hantaan, discovered the world's first Hantaanvirus, an epidemic hemorrhagic fever pathogen in the lungs of wild mice, and in 1988, developed the world's first preventive vaccine to make a decisive contribution to reducing epidemic hemorrhagic fever. The honorary professor has earned world-wide accolades. He has been awarded Best Citizen of America Order of Merit (1979), the Korean National Academy of Sciences Award (1980), the Korea Science Award (1990), the Ho-am Award (1992), and the Order of Civil Merit Mogryeon Medal (1994). He has proved himself through continuous research while always believing that while his genes may fail but they will never give up. Still healthy in his 90s, he said in a recent interview regarding COVID-19, “Vaccines and treatments take a long time. It is even more important to upgrade the diagnosis and improve treatment methods of COVID-19, such as genetic testing.” He also suggested that we should focus more on faster and more accurate diagnosis, appropriate quarantine measures, and the accumulation of experience in the treatment of confirmed patients."



Meanwhile, the late Professor Park Seung-chul, founder of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Korea University Guro Hospital and served as Chairman of the SARS Countermeasure Advisory Committee in 2003 and Chairman of the National Swine Flu Countermeasure Committee in 2009, devoted his life to infectious disease research and was heralded as a pioneer in infectious diseases in Korea. It was he who coined the acronym “SARS” to refer to the monstrous disease that inflicted fear across the world, as a way of preventing excessive anxiety from the populace referring to the disease. He said about the epidemic, "What we should be afraid of is the fear of the disease itself.", emphasizing the need for a sympathetic doctor to go beyond treating the disease and consider the patient’s emotions.

The best virus and infection expert group in Korea: Names that stand out in every crisis

Professor Song Jin-won of the Department of Biomedical Sciences, Korea University is a disciple of Professor Lee Ho-wang and a world-class viral authority. He has continued the lineage of hantavirus✽ research. When he was training overseas in America at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the 1990s, he discovered the pathogen of a patient who had died of acute respiratory failure which had an 80% fatality rate in the eastern United States. Dubbing it the “New York virus,” he registered it with the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. In addition, in 2009, he was the world’s first to discover a new Hantavirus, Imjin virus, from a Ussuri Shrew (Crocidura lasiura), a carnivorous animal caught near the Imjin River in the demilitarized zone, earning him the 2011 Korean National Academy of Sciences Award and the 2013 Lee Ho-wang Award from the International Society for Hantaviruses. In 2019, he became the second Korean to be appointed the President of the International Society for Hantaviruses and is actively conducting research on various pathogenic viruses.

✽ Hantavirus is a virus is a pathogen that causes hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (epidemic hemorrhagic fever) and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). It uses rodents as a host. The hantavirus species include Hantan virus, Seoul virus, Muju virus, Soochong virus, Imjin virus, and Jeju virus.

Kim Woo-joo, professor of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Korea University Guro Hospital is one of best virus and infection specialists in Korea. Whenever new viruses and infectious diseases such as SARS, H1N1, Severe Fever Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS), Ebola virus, MERS, and COVID-19 have appeared, the name that surfaces in the media without exception is Professor Kim’s. After serving as co-chairman of the Public-Private Joint Task Force at the time of MERS, he was appointed to the head of the Immediate Response Team and as a special advisor to the prime minister. He has striven to be active in communicating with the public during the present pandemic, including relaying information about COVID-19 to the public via YouTube. Having watched how information spread on social media during the MERS outbreak, he recognized the importance of public communication by field experts. When COVID-19 began to spread, he rolled up his sleeves and started a YouTube account to prevent an infodemic of misinformation.



Song Dae-sub, Professor of Department of Pharmacology at Korea University, started researching MERS in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in 2012, when MERS was unknown. Realizing that MERS could flow into Korea as exchanges with the Middle East increased, Professor Song decided to focus on MERS research. With a Ph.D. in Veterinary Medicine, he has been researching various virus diagnosis and treatment methods, such as vaccines for swine pandemic diarrhea (PED), dog influenza, and equine influenza. He developed a diagnostic kit that could determine through saliva or nasal mucus whether a camel has MERS. When the MERS virus started to spread in Korea, Professor Song changed the dilution of the diagnostic kit and made a kit that can diagnose people with MERS, which played a decisive role in alleviating confusion.

Before anyone else and smarter than ever : KU Medicine conveys a new discourse in the medical field



When everyone was curtailing their daily life because of COVID-19, the name heard most often was KU Medicine. Since COVID-19 first started to spread, the key medical staff at KU Medicine have been taking the lead in providing advice on the national defense system and participating actively. Most of all, KU Medicine has worked to protect the public from misinformation through information transmission based on accurate medical evidence. In addition, it has been a frontrunner in dispatching medical staff and providing medical supplies so that confirmed patients can return to their daily lives as soon as possible, and establishing a smart patient monitoring system, a smart medical system, and a stress management mobile application. Encouragement campaigns for faculty members who are doing their best to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are also actively underway. To spread the warmth and gratitude felt by many, a video was created and released with the title of “KOREA! Let's overcome COVID-19! Together, we can do it,” to encourage the medical staff and faculty battling around the clock. By practicing medical treatment for even the most alienated of people and by showing the strength of the sum and not the voice of one, Korea University's efforts in social responsibility and the role of the university will continue.

 

KU Insights 게시판 리스트
Communications Team
Tel: 02-3290-1062 E-mail: hongbo@korea.ac.kr Update : 2019-06-27