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Greta, UniSR Olympic champion, involved in a study on COVID-19

15 May 2020
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To Greta Elizabeth Muti-Schuenemann, in the 5th year of the UniSR MD Program, we had dedicated a page on #TalentiUniSR: a talented student, but also a champion in sports, passionate about music, painting and drawing. During birth she received a brachial plexus injury which lead to Erb’s palsy in her left arm and therefore limiting her movements. However, thanks to her family’s attention, she started playing cello when she was four years old and studies opera singing, participating in various competitions. She started rowing in the Island of Giglio, and now she has won multiple medals while representing Italy.

How is she involved in the study of the COVID-19 epidemic?

Greta says: "The maternal branch of my family is from the Island of Giglio [an island of the Tuscan Archipelago, Editor's Note]. The general practitioner of the island, Dr. Armando Schiaffino, and my mother Prof. Paola Muti, epidemiologist, had noticed that no cases of COVID-19 had arisen on the island during the pandemic period. This was a strange result, not only for the contagiousness of SARS-CoV-2, but also because several cases of contagion had occurred in Giglio before the decree of distancing: the virus had therefore had the opportunity to spread in the population on various occasions". The few positive test subjects all came from outside: some of them had been in contact with the islanders, but none of the inhabitants had fallen ill. Why? "Is it possible that the Giglio population had previously been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or other Coronaviruses and was therefore resistant to infection? To answer this question, my mother, a university professor, proposed to the Tuscany Region a study of the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the population of the island".

The study aims to test the presence of specific antibodies that could explain the apparent collective resistance to viral infection.

“My specific interest was related to understanding if and how the inhabitants were sensitized about this topic, and what were the reasons that led them to join the study. In the initial phase of the study, I drafted the forms to be filled in for data collection, and helped in the practical organization of the conduct of the study. We are currently processing the data while we wait for the saliva samples to be analyzed. "

As an athlete and MD student, how do you experience the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games?

The postponement of the Games was a bad blow, even if I expected it to happen: given the current situation, it was the humanly and logistically most sensible decision. Olympic preparation requires physical effort, but above all a great deal of mental energy. In my day, training is constant: I train early in the morning, then I go to university or to the ward, in the afternoon I take singing lessons and conclude with the second training. In the last few months I have almost always been in a meeting and I had prepared myself mentally for the fact that I would be away from my home; with this postponement it will be necessary to elaborate a new action plan and it is not easy, but I remain positive and I continue to study and train with the same energy. Despite the uncertainties of this period, I am clear that my goal is the Paralympics: I love what I do, and I will work hard to achieve my goal".

 

Photo credits http://www.canottaggio.org/ and by kind courtesy of Greta.

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