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A Day in the Life of ISID Emerging Leader Laura Beatriz Talarico

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everybody's life to some extent. What used to be an organized, planned day in my everyday life became mere chaos when the pandemic began last year. Being a mother of two school-age children and a virology researcher at the infectious disease laboratory of a children's referral hospital in Buenos Aires, the capital and largest city of Argentina, was very difficult to handle at first. As the months went by, and with the invaluable support of my husband, who also had to organize his work and everyday duties, we adapted to our new routine.

Initially, homeschooling my 7- and 10-year-old sons was my first priority and took up most of my time as we got into our new normal. Once they adjusted to their new reality of online lessons, got used to interacting with their teachers and classmates on the computer, began doing their school work more independently, and managing their class schedules, I could devote more time to my research studies on virology.

My main research studies, which were focused primarily on dengue virus, needed to be expanded and diversified. In the short term, I became involved in studies related to COVID-19 in pediatrics as well as in adult populations. Working on dengue virus, not only on the mechanisms of disease immunopathogenesis and the discovery of natural antivirals, but also with human populations, has shaped my studies and led me towards translating laboratory findings in early therapeutic intervention measures, which is the main goal of my research.

An overwhelming amount of information regarding COVID-19 arises daily as new data become available. Writing research grants to several funding agencies during this hectic time needed to be done fast and efficiently. Since there were more unknown features of this virus than known, many ideas emerged, and I was able to plan interesting studies. Contributing to understanding this disease is challenging. Evaluating the immune response in children and adults and unveiling the different clinical spectra and the underlying mechanisms of the disease is the aim of these studies. Living through this pandemic is challenging for everyone, but knowing that I am contributing to its understanding and resolution is encouraging and makes me proud to be a virologist.

Every day I teach my children that everything they yearn to achieve in life needs effort, dedication, optimism, self-confidence and, most importantly, passion. Staying up late at night finishing the report of experiments, replying to emails and writing manuscripts can be exhausting, but it is worth it because I am following my goals and doing my part during this COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, advising students and fellows on their laboratory projects and scientific careers allows me to leave them a legacy of my experience and skills, which is also very rewarding.

Pandemic times, although uncertain and puzzling, have taught us many things including how to appreciate and enjoy the pleasant little moments of everyday life, to care for our loved ones and others, and to think of the needs of others and act in pursuit of it. We represent only a small part of this world and with our joint efforts we can contribute with our grain of sand to the well-being of our communities and our countries.  

Dr. Laura Talarico is an investigator from the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Argentina. She has a Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry for studies on the antiviral activity of natural compounds against dengue virus. Dr. Talarico has performed post-doctoral studies at the University of Buenos Aires and at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, USA. She has worked at Fundación INFANT, in Buenos Aires, where her research was focused on basic virology as well as translational studies, developing an immunocompetent mouse model of dengue virus secondary infection for the study of the mechanisms of dengue disease, and participating in clinical projects in Argentina and Paraguay, aimed to characterize the immune response of children and adults with dengue and severe dengue. Currently, she is working at the Department of Medicine, Ricardo Gutierrez Children’s Hospital, Buenos Aires. Her research mainly focuses on the immune response against dengue and Zika virus infections. Furthermore, she is participating in clinical projects aimed to study predictive markers for severity in pediatric respiratory viral infections, including COVID-19. The ultimate aim of her work is to identify viral, immunological and physiological factors involved in viral infections of public health significance that will likely contribute to better assessment of these infections in vulnerable populations.

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