On The Covid-19 Frontline With Dr. Giuliana Nicolosi, Immunology Expert & Water Polo Ref

Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Giuliana Nicolosi – “As for the vaccine, we are not very close”

Less than three months ago Giuliana Nicolosi whistled the women’s semi- final at the European Water Polo Championships in Budapest (Russia v Netherlands) and back then she didn’t think that the news coming from China on a new virus would hit our world so hard soon. While she is considered one of the best female referees around, today her focus is solely on the battle against the Covid-19 as she works for a huge pharmaceutical company’s research department.

Here is a Q&A from the coronavirus frontline courtesy of Gergely Csurka, a journalist in Hungary who works with the European Swimming League (LEN) and Hungarian Swimming Federation:

When you were refereeing at the European Water Polo Championships in Budapest this January, the first news from China already had hit the headlines. Did you think in those days that soon you and your colleagues would be involved to the battle against this virus?

GN: No. We didn’t realise that the situation was so serious and we thought that Europe wouldn’t be affected as hard as it is now.

Can you describe your institution’s role in the ongoing researches?

GN: I’m a member of the R&D Medical department of a big pharmaceutical industry company and as a doctor with a specialization in allergies and immunology, my job is to introduce new drugs to doctors for patients care and find new solutions.

We can say that today all eyes are on the medical personnel who try to help for the infected thousands – but every other day these eyes turn towards the researchers as we all hope you’ll find the solution. It means, you’ll find a weapon to win the war against Covid-19. What is your personal opinion: are we close to find that weapon?

GN: Currently there is a drug therapy to combat the symptoms but for the vaccine we are not very close. Right now the only weapon that works is social distancing to allow hospitals not to collapse.

3 NED GENEE Dagmar Netherlands, 3 RUS PROKOFYEVA Ekaterina Russia, NICOLOSI Giuliana Referee Budapest 23/01/2020 Duna Arena Russia (white caps) Vs. Netherlands (blue caps) XXXIV LEN European Water Polo Championships 2020 Photo ©Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Photo Courtesy: Giuliana Nicolosi – when she’s not in the lab … Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Researchers used to work in silence and calmness and come up with the results once they reached a fine conclusion. How does it feel to work under this kind of pressure that all the world is anxiously waiting that you find the solution miraculously? Though we all now that science is not about making miracles. So how does it feel to do the researching job as if all eyes follow every step you take in the labs?

GN: You are right. Science is not founded to make miracles. Science work is about understanding how to resolve the problems. At this moment, expectations are very high, but we must take thoughtful steps to find a good solution for everyone.

We’ve learnt that the scientific community has never been so open and supportive to each other, all results and discoveries in relation to Covid19 are immediately shared on the web. Is it still the case? How much this openness and flow of the information eases your job?

GN: Sharing data and experience is the most important thing. Medicine is not an exact science but now we must think about how to win this battle.

Do you think it is possible that different researchers will create different vaccines for example which can both be effective against the virus? Or usually there is only one good solution?

GN: There may be multiple solutions to solving the disease but what matters is the end result.

Can you describe your days and weeks? Is it a kind of constant progress or there are failed experiments which make your team a bit disappointed, then you’ll see positive results which then help to step forward?

GN: Currently I’m working from home and in constant contact with pulmonologist doctors to discuss and choose the right therapy for patients.

How is your body and soul? Do you have any time for just a short recharging or it’s a constant process?


Giuliana Nicolosi

GN: I feel a little under stress but I know that working is the only thing to do. In my free time I watched some games from the Budapest 2020 European Championships and some games from the earlier Olympics in order not to forget the dreams of all of us.

I guess you miss water polo – as we all do. Do you wait for the time to return to the pool deck?

GN: My last WP game was on 7th of March without spectators and it was very strange. I really miss water polo and all the big family of water polo.

How do you see the future of water polo and sport after these troubled times?

GN: Surely I think there will be a period of adjustment but we will return stronger and more united than before.


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