Dr. Aruna Ambagala

Research Scientist, Head - Mammalian Diseases Unit & the OIE Reference Laboratory for Classical Swine Fever
  • Lead diagnostic and research activities on high consequence exotic and emerging viral diseases of farm animals

  • Lead the OIE Reference Laboratory activities related to classical swine fever

Current research and/or projects

The current research projects are focused on

  • Development and validation of novel or improving the existing laboratory diagnostic assays for rapid and sensitive detection of exotic and emerging high consequence viral diseases of farm animals, with the main focus on classical swine fever, Africa swine fever, pseudorabies, bluetongue and Schmallenberg disease

  • Evaluation of novel diagnostic platforms for laboratory and on-site detection of exotic and emerging viral diseases of farm animals

  • Pathogenesis of emerging viral pathogens of farm animals

  • Evlauation of novel vaccines or vaccine candidates for exotic and emerging viral diseases of farm animals

Education and awards

Senior Postdoctoral Fellow (2007-2010) - Department of Microbiology, Mt. Sinai Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada

Postdoctoral Fellow (2004-2007) - Medical Virology Section, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA

Ph.D. (2004)  - Dept. of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, USA

M.Sc. (1998) - Dept. of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, USA

B.V.Sc. (Sri Lankan equivalent of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) (1994) with a First class honors - Faculty of Veterinary Medicine & Animal Sciences, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.

International experience and/or work

  • OIE Reference Laboratory Related Activities
  • Twinning Projects and Research Collaborations  

Key publications

Darbellay J, Lai K, Babiuk S, Berhane Y, Ambagala A, Wheler C, Wilson D, Walker S, Potter A, Gilmour M, Safronetz D, Gerdts V, Karniychuk U. Neonatal pigs are susceptible to experimental Zika virus infection. Emerg Microbes Infect. 2017 Feb 15;6(2).

Senthilkumaran C, Bittner H, Ambagala A, Lung O, Babiuk S, Yang M, Zimmerman J, Giménez-Lirola LG, Nfon C. Use of Oral Fluids for Detection of Virus and Antibodies in Pigs Infected with Swine Vesicular Disease Virus. Transbound Emerg Dis. 2016 Sep 15.

Ambagala A, Fisher M, Goolia M, Nfon C, Furukawa-Stoffer T, Ortega Polo R, Lung O. Field-Deployable Reverse Transcription-Insulated Isothermal PCR (RT-iiPCR) Assay for Rapid and Sensitive Detection of Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus. Transbound Emerg Dis. 2016 Sep 3.

Russell JN, Marsh AK, Willer DO, Ambagala AP, Dzamba M, Chan JK, Pilon R, Fournier J, Brudno M, Antony JM, Sandstrom P, Evans BJ, MacDonald KS. A novel strain of cynomolgus macaque cytomegalovirus: implications for host-virus co-evolution. BMC Genomics. 2016 Apr 5;17(1):277.

Lung O, Ohene-Adjei S, Buchanan C, Joseph T, King R, Erickson A, Detmer S, Ambagala A. (2015) Multiplex PCR and Microarray for Detection of Swine Respiratory Pathogens. Transbound. Emerg. Dis. Dec 12.

Ambagala, A, Pahari, S, Fisher, M, Lee P. Y. A, Pasick, J, Ostlund E.N., Johnson D.J. and O Lung (2015) A rapid field-deployable insulated isothermal RT-PCR assay for sensitive and specific detection of Bluetongue virus. Transbound. Emerg. Dis., 10.1111/tbed.12388.

Marsh AK, Ambagala AP, Perciani CT, Russell JN, Chan JK, Janes M, Antony JM, Pilon R, Sandstrom P, Willer DO, MacDonald KS (2015). Examining the Species-Specificity of Rhesus Macaque Cytomegalovirus (RhCMV) in Cynomolgus Macaques. PLoS One. 2015 Mar 30;10(3):e0121339.

Lung O, Pasick J, Fisher M, Buchanan C, Erickson A, Ambagala A. (2015) Insulated Isothermal Reverse Transcriptase PCR (iiRT-PCR) for Rapid and Sensitive Detection of Classical Swine Fever Virus. Transbound. Emerg. Dis. 2015 Jan 27. doi: 10.1111/tbed.12318.

Lung O, S Nadin-Davis, M Fisher, A Erickson, MK Knowles, T Furukawa-Stoffer & A Ambagala (2013) Microarray for identification of the Chiropteran host species of Rabies virus in Canada. Microarrays. 2(2),153-169.

Ambagala AP, AK Marsh, JK Chan, R Mason, R Pilon, J Fournier, P Sandstrom, DO Willer & KS MacDonald (2013) Establishment of an immortal cynomolgus macaque fibroblast cell line for propagation of cynomolgus macaque cytomegalovirus. Archives of Virology. Arch Virol. May;158(5):955-65.

Willer DO, AP Ambagala, R Pilon, JK Chan, J Fournier, J Brooks, P Sandstrom & KS Macdonald (2012) Experimental Infection of Cynomolgus Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) with human Varicella Zoster Virus. Journal of  Viroogy. 86(7):3626-3634.

Marsh AK, DO Willer, AP Ambagala, M Dzamba, JK Chan, R Pilon, J Fournier, P Sandstrom, M Brudno & KS Macdonald (2011) Genomic sequencing and characterization of cynomolgus macaque cytomegalovirus. Virology. 85(24): 12995-13009.

Ambagala A, A Marsh, J Chan, T Mazzulli, R  Pilon, J Fournier, P Sandstrom, DO Willer & KS MacDonald (2011) Isolation and Characterization of Cynomolgus Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) Cytomegalovirus (CyCMV). Virology. 412(1):125-135

Ambagala AP, T Krogmann, J Qin, L Pesnicak & JI Cohen (2010) A varicella-zoster virus mutant impaired for latency in rodents, but not impaired for replication in cell culture. Virology. 399(2):194-200.

Ambagala AP, T Bosma, MA Ali, M Poustovoitov, JJ Chen, MD Gershon, PD Adams & JI Cohen (2009) Varicella-Zoster Virus immediate-Early 63 protein interacts with human anti-silencing function 1 protein and alters its ability to bind Histones H3.1 and H3.3. Journal of Virology. 83:200-209.

Ambagala AP & JI Cohen (2007) Varicella-Zoster virus IE63, a major viral latency protein, is required to inhibit the alpha interferon-induced antiviral response. Journal of Virology. 81:7844-7851.

Srikumaran S, CL Kelling & AP Ambagala (2007) Immune evasion by pathogens of bovine respiratory disease complex. Animal Health Research Reviews. 8:215-229.

Gopinath RS, AP Ambagala, T Ambagala, L Weiguo & S Srikumaran (2006)Molecular cloning & characterization of cDNA encoding CD11b of cattle. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathogy. 110:349-355

Ambagala APN, JC Solheim & S Srikumaran (2005) Viral interference with MHC class I antigen presentation pathway: the battle continues. Veterinary Immunology & Immunopathogy. 107: 1-15.

Ambagala APN, RS Gopinath & S Srikumaran (2004) Peptide transport activity of transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP) is inhibited by an early protein of equine herpes virus-1 (EHV-1).  Journal of General Virology. 85:349-353.

Ambagala APN, RS Gopinath & S Srikumaran (2003) Inhibition of TAP by pseudorabies virus is independent of its vhs activity. Virus Research. 96: 37- 48.

Gopinath RS, APN Ambagala, S Hinkley & S Srikumaran (2002) Effect of virion host shut-off activity of bovine herpesvirus 1 on MHC class I expression. Viral Immunology. 15:595 -608.

Deshpande MS, TC Ambagala, APN Ambagala, ME Kehrli & S Srikumaran (2002) Bovine CD18 is necessary & sufficient to mediate Mannheimia (Pasteurella) haemolytica leukotoxin-induced cytolysis.Infection and Immunity. 70: 5058-5064.

Ambagala APN, Z Feng, R Barletta & S Srikumaran (2002) Molecular cloning, sequencing & characterization of bovine transporter associated with antigen processing 2 (BoTAP2).  Immunogenetics, 54:30-38.    

Ambagala APN, S Hinkley & S Srikumaran (2000) An early pseudorabies virus protein  down-regulates MHC class I expression by inhibition of TAP. The Journal of Immunology, 164 (1):93-99.

Hinkley S, APN Ambagala, CJ Jones & S Srikumaran (2000) A vhs-like activity of bovine herpesvirus-1.Archives of Virology 145:2027-2046.

Ambagala TC, APN Ambagala & S Srikumaran (1999) The leukotoxin of Pasturella  haemolytica binds to β2 integrins. FEMS Microbiology Letters, 179:161-167.


Adjunct Professor, Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg MB, Canada

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Dept. of Comparative Biology & Exp. Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada




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