IDEA project is established to strengthen the identification and characterization of emerging pathogens in Sri Lanka. This specifically includes the characterization of highly pathogenic viruses and the investigation of their transmission routes from potential animal reservoirs and vectors to humans. Therefore, the prevalence of highly pathogenic viruses in reservoir species, such as bats and rodents, and viral pathogens that would induce encephalitis conditions in humans are investigated by a team of scientists from the University of Colombo, Robert Kock Institute, Germany, and North Colombo Teaching Hospital (NCTH), Ragama. Funding for this project was secured from the Global Health Protection Programme.

With the support of RKI, fully equipped research and diagnostic laboratories for the molecular and immunological detection of high-threat pathogens and expansion of the diagnostic portfolio for pathogens relevant for differential diagnosis were established at the Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences, University of Colombo and Colombo North Teaching Hospital.

Progress since 2017

  • Studies on pathogen discovery in potential reservoir hosts, e.g. bats, to investigate prevalence, transmission routes and seasonality of zoonotic pathogens.
  • Investigation of cases of unidentified encephalitis of unknown etiology from CNTH in order to identify novel pathogens, and development of custom-made diagnostics methods.
  • A delegation led by the Head of the division of highly pathogenic viruses at the Center for Biological Threats and Special Pathogens (ZBS) at Robert Koch-Institute, Germany, Professor Andreas Nitsche visited University of Colombo on 20th of November. Dr. Janine Michel, Ms. Juliane Fraissinet, Ms. Beate Becker-Ziaja, Ms. Franziska Schwarz and Ms. Caroline Eberle representing Robert Koch – Institut accompanied Professor Andreas Nitsche. more..
  • Trainings on the diagnostics of infectious diseases for several professional groups from UoC and CNTH.
    • Six (6) training programmes  for 5-9 trainees on molecular diagnostics (PCR, RT-PCR and NGS) and serology (ELISA, IFA) have been performed in Sri Lanka (focus on Dengue, Chikungunya, JEV and their differential diagnosis)
    • Nine (9) trainings/workshops on diagnostics, next-generation sequencing, sampling etc. were performed in Germany.
    • Four participants from the University of Colombo and NCTH participated in a “Train-the-trainer principle” workshop carried out in RKI, Berlin.
    • Two (2) PhD students (Ms Thejanee Perera and Mr Sahan Siriwardana ) received European Mobile Lab training in 2018/19  and trained to perform diagnostics and supporting clinical laboratory analysis on site during outbreaks of infectious diseases caused by pathogens up to risk group 4. One PhD student Ms Therese Muzeinick from RKI is also working in association with this project.
  • A molecular diagnostic facility has been established since 18th March 2020 for COVID 19 diagnosis at the RKI funded NCTH (North Colombo Teaching Hospital, Ragama) Laboratories at the Microbiology Laboratory of NCTH, with a team of scientists from the Department of Zoology, University of Colombo, scientists from RKI, clinicians and a microbiologist from NCTH with the RKI trained Medical Laboratory Technologists (MLTs) of NCTH and a virologist from the Medical Research Institute.
  • In November 2021 a workshop was conducted in Colombo by the RKI team to train the healthcare professionals in molecular diagnostics and variant identification of SARS CoV-2 genome sequencing.