Professor Hirofumi Sawa

Affiliation: International Institute for Zoonosis Control

Specialty: Virology, Cell Biology

Research keywords: zoonotic disease, virus, epidemiological survey, antiviral drug, pathogenicity

Alma mater: Otaru Shioryo High School (Hokkaido)

Final academic background: Graduate School of Medicine, Hokkaido University

HP address:

*This article was originally published in the 4th issue of "Frontiers of Knowledge" and has been re-edited for the web.

What are you aiming for?

Foraging wild animals in the African grasslands

Zoonotic diseases are infectious diseases that occur when microorganisms that have lived peacefully with wild animals infect livestock such as cattle and chickens, poultry, and humans. Due to recent changes in the global environment, the ecology and home ranges of animals have changed, as the area inhabited by mosquitoes that transmit dengue fever has moved northward to Aomori. In addition, the boundaries between the areas inhabited by wildlife and the society in which humans live are disappearing, increasing the opportunities for microorganisms to infect cattle, horses, chickens and humans. Furthermore, as the number of tourists traveling to and from foreign countries and the importation of edible meat and animals are increasing, the risk of zoonotic diseases invading Japan is increasing. Recently, zoonotic diseases such as tick-borne encephalitis, dengue fever, severe febrile thrombocytopenia (SFTS), and influenza have occurred one after another in Japan. In the international community, zoonotic diseases such as the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Ebola virus disease, and Zika fever are threatening people's lives.

Novel virus isolated at high containment laboratory facility

The Zoonotic Disease Research Center is a new institution established in 2005 at Hokkaido University. We are, Preemptive measures against zoonotic diseases to take Elucidation of the origin and mode of survival in the natural world of microorganisms that cause zoonotic diseases hidden in wild animals, routes of entry into livestock and humans, and factors involved in infection and epidemics in the fields of Africa and South America I'm trying We are also developing preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic methods to overcome zoonotic diseases. Furthermore, we are active in the international community Developing specialists to take measures against zoonotic diseases doing.

What i've done so far

The Hokkaido University Research Center for Zoonosis Infectious Diseases conducts joint research with many foreign countries, fosters human resources through mutual exchanges between students and young researchers, and continues joint research targeting infectious diseases. . In 2007, we established a laboratory at the University of Zambia and are working together to take proactive measures against zoonotic diseases. We have visited the Amazon tributary jungle in Bolivia twice, as shown in the photo above, and have visited Zambia more than 50 times, and found more than 20 new viruses. Furthermore, we are researching which diseases these viruses are associated with and disseminating the results to the international community. In addition, we have conducted long-term joint research with Professor Hall of the National University of Ireland, Dublin, and have established a diagnostic method for mosquito-borne viral infections as joint research at three facilities with the Fio Cruz Institute in Brazil. We are reporting.

In the laboratory of the Research Center for Zoonosis Diseases, we use live mosquitoes and ticks to investigate how the virus infection and the mosquitoes and ticks that carry it are related. Also, let's work together day and night with three researchers from Shionogi to find a drug that is effective against viral infections such as the new coronavirus infection (COVID-19). I'm doing it.

Electron microscope image of a novel virus strain with a diameter of approximately 90 nm isolated from a mosquito collected in Zambia by Associate Professor Ohba of the Department of Molecular Pathology and Diagnostics.

In August 2017, I visited the Pedro Couri Institute in Havana, Cuba, together with Associate Professor Ohba of the Department of Molecular Pathology and Diagnostics, and Professor Hall of the National University of Ireland, Dublin, and conducted a workshop on mosquito-borne virus diagnostics.
Associate Professor Oba teaching diagnostic methods to trainees from Latin American and African countries.

Future activities

Learn about the infection patterns of zoonotic diseases by utilizing the international joint research and education network that has been built so that people suffering from zoonotic diseases in the international community can live a better life. We will implement proactive measures based on the situation. In addition, we aim to establish preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic methods for zoonotic diseases in collaboration with domestic and overseas joint researchers, including Shionogi. In terms of education, we will produce young, energetic researchers who can contribute to the fight against infectious diseases in the international community. If you are interested in our activities, please visit Would you like to play an active role in the international community to overcome zoonotic diseases together with us?