In Memoriam: Pauline Huntington Peralta, PhD

Posted 3 May 2021

Pauline Huntington Peralta, PhD (1926-2021). Microbiologist, Virologist, and Mentor 

By Robert B. Tesh, MD, and Laura D. Kramer, PhD
We are sad to report the death in Panama on April 16, 2021 of our former colleague, mentor and friend, Pauline H. Peralta, PhD. Pauline Huntington was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1926. She received a BS in chemistry from Stanford University and a PhD in biochemistry from Yale University. While a graduate student at Yale, she met Braulio Virgilio Peralta, a Panamanian native and a resident in obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine; and they were married. They returned to Panama, where she took his name and became part of his extended family. The couple had two children and eight grandchildren.

In 1958, Alex Shelekov, then-director of the Middle America Research Unit (MARU), first hired Pauline as a microbiologist/virologist, a career she pursued until she retired. Pauline worked with, and in some cases mentored, many noted arbovirologists, medical entomologists, infectious disease epidemiologists and other past and present members of ASTMH, including Alexis Shelekov, Karl M. Johnson, Patricia Webb, Pedro Galindo, Nathanial Young, Arnold Monto, William C. Reeves, Jr., Clarence C. Peters, John Craighead, Barnett Cline, Byron Chaniotis, Jack Peterson,  Abdiel Adames, Gerald Eddy, Margaret Grayson, Robert Tesh, David H. Martin, Thomas Walton, Laura Kramer, Charles Seymour, Bedsy Dutary, James LeDuc, Mariana Garcia, Evelia Quiroz, Gladys Oro, Gustavo Justines, Sunthorn Srihongse and Julio Cisneros. Pauline was a very modest person by nature, preferring to let others take the spotlight; but she was an important contributor and co-author on many significant publications. Some of her collaborative research projects included the following: ecologic and epidemiologic studies of vesicular stomatitis virus, ecologic investigations of  encephalomyocarditis virus, studies of the seasonal occurence of  respiratory illness among children in Panama, epidemiology and potential hosts of eastern equine and Venezuelan equine encephalitis viruses, first description and characterization of the Changuinola virus group, discovery of new viruses in the sandfly fever group of phleboviruses, participation in nutritional  and arbovirus prevalence surveys of rural residents in Central America and Panama, as well as virologic and serologic studies of arboviruses in sloths and cormorants in collaboration with biologists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

When MARU closed and the Canal Zone reverted to Panamanian sovereignty, Pauline moved to the Gorgas Memorial Laboratory (now Gorgas Research Institute of Health Studies), where she remained until her retirement in 1991. Dr. Peralta was a member of ASTMH from1985 until 2000.