Published: 2020-03-13 15:57 | Updated: 2020-04-02 15:28

Doctoral student Hedvig Glans is one of the experts in KI’s COVID-19 team

The president of Karolinska Institutet, Professor Ole Petter Ottersen, has established a team of experts for Covid-19 comprising eight of the university’s researchers with expertise in a range of fields related to the spread of infection. One of them is doctoral students Hedvig Glans, assistant consultant and head of inpatient care at Karolinska University Hospital’s infection clinic in Huddinge.

What do you bring to the COVID-19 team?

Portrait of Hedvid Glans
Hedvig Glans. Photo: Andreas Andersson

“I bring my medical experience of handling this type of situation and patient. We’ve been working with these scenarios at the high-level isolation unit at Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge for over 20 years, testing, caring for and treating patients with highly infectious agents such as Ebola, Lassa fever and Mers. We have solid experience of what could conceivably happen when no one knows how infectious a new disease is or how sick it can make people. I’ve also worked for a year with similar matters at the Public Health Agency, which puts me in good stead for this new assignment at KI.”

In your experience, what do you need to do in this situation?

“We readying ourselves in stages – we’re training staff and we’re making sure to stay updated to that everyone is comfortable with the procedures and protective equipment. This applies to both inpatient and outpatient care, and we’re preparing ourselves to reinforce inpatient resources in the event of many patients needing treatment.

“We’ve also reviewed our testing capacity procedures. Many people want to get tested at present, and that has to go smoothly. We’re operating a kind of drive-in clinic at the hospital today. People who think they might be infected are given a kind of queue number after contacting Vårdguiden 1177. We don’t want people sitting waiting for hours in their cars, so we’re giving them slot times. You can’t come straight to the drive-in, you have to go via 1177.

“We’re also sketching out different future infection scenarios. A few weeks ago, we looked at multiple scenarios, but nowadays things look different. We have daily run-throughs to keep the routines updated, depending on how the situation develops.”

What is your own research on?

“I’m researching Leishmaniasis – a parasitic disease classed as ‘neglected’ by the WHO. This is a disease found in tropical and subtropical areas, commonly poor ones. There are no handy diagnostic methods and many of the drugs are old, hard to administrate and prone to causing lots of adverse reactions. Woefully little research is being done to improve the situation, hence the designation ‘neglected’. The WHO estimates that around 20,000 people die every day from the most severe form of Leishmaniasis.

“In terms of what I’m actually doing, I’m studying the therapeutic effect and the parasite genome, which isn’t so well-mapped. We want to map the genome in order to find out how the parasite works and then find more efficacious diagnostic models and drugs than those currently in use.” 

KI's COVID-19 group

  • KI’s COVID-19 group comprises eight KI researchers with expertise in various fields related to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus.
  • The COVID-19 group is: Jan Albert (convenor), Anna Färnert, Johan Giesecke, Hedvig Glans, Anna Färnert, Johan Giesecke, Sara Gredmark Russ, Ali Mirazimi, Johan von Schreeb and Matti Sällberg.
  • KI president Ole Petter Ottersen decided to establish the expert group in response to the corona outbreak. One of the team’s tasks is to provide the KI management with support on responsive action and internal communication.