Leading Enterovirus Research in 1998; Vaccine Unblind Results Announced in 2021
In 1998, an enterovirus epidemic broke out with over a million young children infected in Taiwan. Patients in early cases showed symptoms of mouth ulcers and rashes on the arms and feet. Unbeknownst to the medical professionals at the time, these cases would ultimately lead to a spike in deaths. With parents panic-stricken across the island, medical teams from NCKU’s Department of Pediatrics and basic medical sciences research teams were the first to discover the “Enterovirus 71” pathogen that was causing severe symptoms in patients. Many also delved into research on how the disease presents itself after infection, the clinical staging, the immunological and pathogenesis mechanisms, and prognoses. Many of the studies were published in well-known international academic journals and were the glimmer of hope for the myriad of worried parents.
NCKU proactively published information and promoted education on enterovirus diagnosis, treatment, and prevention among doctors at community clinics. Moreover, NCKU released its clinical research and treatment experience data beyond Taiwan’s shores. In 2010, NCKU College of Medicine chairman Ching-Chuan Liu and Professor Lin Tzou-Yien from Chang Gung Medical Hospital were both involved in the formulation of WHO’s “A Guide to Clinical Management and Public Health Response for Hand Food Mouth Disease”, which would become the official guidelines for dealing with Enterovirus 71 infections across the globe. This guide helped raise awareness of the disease amongst doctors as well as the quality of treatment, and effectively decreased the complications in patients, which lowered the mortality rate. The medical research and experience from Taiwan gave the world a fighting chance to withstand the epidemic.
NCKU College of Medicine was also at the forefront of southbound research efforts. As early as 2001, Professor Huan-Yao Lei from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Professor Ching-Chuan Liu from the Department of Pediatrics led a dengue fever research delegation from the College of Medicine on a study mission to Vietnam, under the recommendation of Dr. Scott B. Halstead, then-director of the American Bureau for Medical Aid to China. Since then, this cooperative research relationship has been ongoing for 20 years. Dengue fever was the catalyst to the development of official cooperation between NCKU, the National Health Research Institutes, and Ho Chi Minh City’s first children’s hospital. Together, concerted efforts were made in the treatment of enterovirus infections as well as in conducting clinical trials for the research and development of treatment drugs.
In 2021, Taiwan and Vietnam worked together to complete the third phase of clinical trials for the Enterovirus 71 vaccine. In June 2021, Medigen Vaccine Biologics (MVC) announced the unblinded immunogenicity results for its COVID-19 vaccine, indicating that the MVC vaccine could be up to 100% effective against the virus. If the domestic vaccine is mass produced, it will be instrumental in vaccinating infants and toddlers and ultimately the overall health and safety of every family.
A 2007 photo of a delegation team of NHRI led by Prof. Ih-Jen Su (third from left) and Prof. Ching-Chuan Liu at NCKU (fourth from left) visiting City Children’s Hospital, HCM City (Bệnh Viện Nhi Đồng Thành Phố) (Courtesy of Ching-Chuan Liu)
The cover of A Guide to Clinical Management for EV71 published in 2010. (downloaded from the WHO official website)