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[FOUNTAIN]The virus battleground

Apr 04,2003
Louis Pasteur proved with experiments that human life is affected by microscopic organisms in the air. With S-shaped flasks, Mr. Pasteur made an important discovery. He put broth into several flasks, boiled the liquid and cooled the flasks. He learned that no matter how long the flasks sat still the liquid inside did not become contaminated. No microorganism was found in the flasks because the bent neck of the flasks stopped the microorganisms in the air from getting into the liquid. The liquid, when exposed to the air, quickly became contaminated.
Mr. Pasteur’s experiment proved that germs, too small to be seen by the human eye, were the cause of diseases, not the product of diseases. A disease no longer became a natural phenomenon beyond control or a message from God. Louis Pasteur’s experiment exposed the truth about diseases.
Scientific prescriptions to cure diseases followed, and the discovery of vaccines was the cure. Developing vaccine was the dream of Mr. Pasteur, who had lost his three daughters to diseases. Chicken cholera was prevalent throughout the country in 1879. Leaving home for a summer holiday, Mr. Pasteur injected cholera germs into a chicken. He returned a few weeks later and discovered how to develop a vaccine after seeing a healthy chicken. A weakened virus generated immunity to the real virus.
The discovery led mankind to begin a war against germs. When a medicine was developed to resist attacks of the germs, the germs mutated and grew stronger. As soon as doctors celebrated that they won the battle against smallpox, scientists took on another viral enemy in the early 1980s: AIDS.
An American scientist in 1993 wrote in the magazine Science that he had found 3.5 million-year-old fossilized microorganisms in a rock in western Australia. Microorganisms were indeed the first living organisms to appear on earth with an ability to replicate themselves. Through billions of years of evolution, all living organisms on the earth were created.
A mysterious new disease has been rapidly spreading in China and Southeast Asia. It attacks in the form of a mutated virus, which is a type of microorganism. To fight infection, travelers returning from Southeast Asia are wearing masks; their faces are pale. In the war against viruses, which cover the earth but are invisible, there are no national boundaries.


by Oh Byung-sang

The writer is the London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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