• Medical Research Institute - Sri Lanka

    The premier medical research institute in Sri Lanka
  • Medical Research Institute - Sri Lanka

    The premier medical research institute in Sri Lanka
  • Medical Research Institute - Sri Lanka

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“To reduce the Morbidity and Mortality from viral infections in Sri Lanka by providing national leadership in services for the diagnosis, surveillance, training and research.”


Provide timely and high-quality services for the diagnosis, surveillance, training and research of human viral infections throughout the country to achieve the common mission of MRI.


• To provide timely and quality clinical diagnostic services for patient management

• To provide reference facilities to strengthen the virology services in Sri Lanka

• To provide public health laboratory services for control of viral infections of public health interest

• To strengthen national and international collaborative research

• To strengthen teaching and training activities


The Virus Laboratory was established in 1951 under Dr. Stork. With the development of the section, a sub unit of the department was started at Colombo South Teaching Hospital in 1968 headed by Dr. Yvette Hermon. Dr. U.T. Vitarana succeeded her as the head of the department. Both departments came under one roof when the new Medical Research Institute was donated by the JICA in 1990. Dr. Nalini Withana was appointed as the head of the department at that time. Dr. Gaya Colombage, Dr. Geethani Wickramasinghe and Dr. Sunethra Gunasena were successful in holding the position of head of the department. The present head of the department is Dr. J. I Abeynayake.

The Department of Virology includes six clinical laboratories

  • Arbo
  • Entero
  • Hepatitis
  • Herpes
  • Respiratory
  • Gastroenteritis viruses

Professional staff includes consultant virologists, Senior Registrars, medical officers, research officers and post graduate trainees. The other staff includes medical laboratory technologists and support staff. These staff members have extensive experience in clinical virology ranging from 5 to 30 years.  The enterovirus laboratory is the Regional Reference Laboratory for polio viruses. The Respiratory laboratory has been the National Influenza surveillance center from 1968.  The laboratory also functions as the national Japanese encephalitis, gastroenteritis and measles and rubella surveillance centers.

The Department of Virology serves as a reference and diagnostic laboratory for virological investigations for the whole country. It receives samples from all state hospitals & private sector.

The Department of Virology offers a wide range of tests including tests for viral culture, antigen detection, molecular detection and serology for the diagnosis of viral infections. The laboratory provides a comprehensive consultation service to assist clinicians in choosing the appropriate tests and interpreting the results. Diagnostic tests are offered for dengue, JE, hepatitis, Herpes simplex, enterovirus infections, influenza viruses, rubella, measles and other common viral infections.

There are many laboratory surveillance programs carried out throughout the year. These are;

1. Acute Flaccid Paralysis (Polio) surveillance

2. Influenza surveillance

3. Dengue surveillance

4. Japanese Encephalitis surveillance

5. Rotavirus surveillance

6. Rubella & Measles surveillance

7. Hepatitis Antibody surveillance


  • Investigations
  • National surveillances
  • Teaching and training
  • Research
  • National EQA provider
  • Evaluation of national dossiers (MSD, NMRA, Reagents, Equipment)
  • Providing advisory for national expert committees
  • SARS-CoV 2 Gene sequencing

Recent Achievements

  • Strengthen the molecular diagnostic facility in the Department of Virology to create state of the art viral diagnostic laboratory
  • Strengthen the Department with the molecular diagnostic equipment to speedy test performance
  • Initiated services accordingly to Bone Marrow transplant program in the country to support the transplant work in the country
  • The department of virology upgraded with LIMS and Barcoding system.
  • Established and strengthen as the National Reference Laboratory for all viral diagnostics including COVID-19.
  • Lead viral diagnostic services for global emerging viral infection and outbreaks as a public health laboratory.
  • Extended National Reference Laboratory for private sector hospitals in regard to COVID-19 testing.
  • Established gene sequencing facilities in the Department of Virology
  • Conduct Research with innovative and supportive for National system as well as international collaborative 
  • Actively liaised Clinical work with patient management team
  • Guided and support extensively Teaching and training in Medical Virology in different categories. Also provided more opportunity for hands on experience of laboratory techniques PCR, routine quality improvements practices in training.
  • Extended services for National evaluations in viral diagnostic. 
  • Services extended for National meeting related to Virology/ viral infection.