Gonzalo Moratorio
Gonzalo Moratorio, Uruguayan virologist awarded by Nature. (Photo: Courtesy Institut Pasteur de Montevideo)

Gonzalo Moratorio has reached the pinnacle of world science. He is the only Latin American to appear in Nature magazine’s list of the top 10 most important researchers of the year, in which Anthony Fauci, Director of the United States National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, also appears.

“The truth is that it took me completely by surprise. I wasn’t expecting absolutely anything like this. It’s really something extraordinary for me and it still hasn’t really hit me that I’ve been chosen,” says the 38-year-old Uruguayan virologist in an interview for Tec Review.

He is a researcher at the Institut Pasteur de Montevideo and the Faculty of Sciences at the University of the Republic, in Uruguay, and his achievement has been to successfully combat Covid-19 in his country.

The efforts of the team of scientists led by Moratorio has meant that Uruguay, with around 3.5 million inhabitants, has only had 10,029 cases and 95 deaths due to the pandemic.

Moratorio coordinated the development of a molecular diagnostic test for Covid-19, using the RT-PCR technique, at an affordable cost, which has helped the Uruguayan nation to become independent from the importation of this type of product.

“In Uruguay, we were able to offer the tests to everyone. We didn’t pursue any monetary gain. Everything was financed regionally by Mercosur (Southern Common Market). I was chosen by Nature because of the altruistic and supportive reason for going out onto the front line to fight this battle,” says Moratorio.

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An unprecedented struggle

The virologist explains that humanity has never faced a pandemic in a context as delicate as the current one. SARS-CoV-2 is “a very cunning enemy” that is not yet fully understood.

“We live on an overpopulated planet with extreme globalization where under normal conditions, millions of people travel by air every day. This caused the pandemic to reach every part of the globe in a few days.”

Moratorio also points out that the conditions of pollution, overcrowding, and economic inequality have also contributed to the impact that coronavirus has had on the world.

According to the virologist, Latin American countries have to trust their scientists in order to deal with this situation.

“They have not only been trained in these countries but they have studied at the best institutes and research centers in the world and have returned to try to reform or continue Latin American science,” he says.

However, this has not occurred in countries like Brazil, where, according to Moratorio, it seems that being close-minded is a state policy.

“Brazil has leaders who are clearly very stubborn and who don’t listen to anyone but themselves,” he says.

While other countries in the region, such as Mexico, have suffered from slow coordination between public authorities and health experts, this has not happened in this scientist’s native country.

“One of the keys to achieving the situation we have in Uruguay is being able to align politicians and scientists, and understanding the importance of making quick decisions,” he concludes.

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