Virologists at the forefront of the COVID-19 battle in Sri Lanka

By
Dr. Veranja Liyanapathirana
Dr. Thushari Dissanayake

Photo Credits – Dr. Muditha Abeykoon

Since the emergence of COVID-19 outbreak late last year and following its declaration as a public health emergency of global concern by the WHO in January 2020, testing and early identification of cases became a cornerstone of the pandemic response. Rising to the need of the hour, virologists of Sri Lanka acted immediately to face this new threat effectively. They were hard at work to establish the new diagnostics and owing to their dedication and tireless efforts Sri Lanka became one of the first countries which started PCR testing for COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic.

Consultant virologists heading the National and Regional Virology Laboratories; Dr. Jude Jayamaha, Dr. Janaki Abeynayake, Dr. Dulmini Kumarasinghe and Dr. Nadeeka Janage of the Medical Research Institute, Dr. Nayomi Danthanarayana of Teaching Hospital Karapitiya, Dr. Rohitha Muthugala of National Hospital, Kandy and Dr. Saranga Sumathipala of Teaching Hospital Kandy are working 24x7, leading their able laboratory staff in providing timely, accurate diagnostic services to the country. Additionally, several Senior Registrars in virology are also involved in providing services in a number of centers.

Molecular diagnostics is a field that is much talked about currently. These tests require precision and stringent quality control unlike many other tests. Consultant virologists are trained in this both locally and in laboratories elsewhere. Despite being extremely busy at their own centers, while also contributing to the national committees, they were committed to establishing centers outside the national and regional virology laboratories, in hospitals and Universities too. As a result, COVID-19 diagnostic testing is carried out in 22 centers nationally, as of 28/06/2020.  Consultant Clinical Microbiologists have also taken up the challenge of joining in providing molecular diagnostics, in addition to their heavy involvement in the COVID-19 related activities including infection prevention and control endeavors.

Many of them worked going out of their way, through personal connections to prepare laboratories to establish the diagnostic services. Contribution of Prof. Sriyal Malik Peiris of the University of Hong Kong in establishing the diagnostic services, along with other collaborators from Robert Koch Institute Germany are much appreciated too.

While the pandemic has caused much devastation in some parts of the world, our virologists have been the major pillars of Sri Lanka’s success story so far and undoubtedly will be the guiding light in combating this colossal threat through team work, commitment and futuristic vision.

Author: SLCM

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