Professor Thushan de Silva


Clinical Medicine, School of Medicine and Population Health

Professor of Infectious Diseases

Honorary Consultant Physician in Infectious Diseases

Dr Thushan de Silva
Dr Thushan de Silva
Profile picture of Dr Thushan de Silva
+44 114 215 9532

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Professor Thushan de Silva
Clinical Medicine, School of Medicine and Population Health
The Medical School
Beech Hill Road
S10 2RX

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I am an Infectious Diseases Clinician Scientist with a programme of research centred around clinical discovery science in the UK and Africa. My research focuses on mucosal and systemic immunity to influenza and SARS-CoV-2, hospital and community transmission of respiratory viruses, and immunity to and transmission of Streptococcus pyogenes (Group A Streptococcus) in high burden settings. Through applied immunology and genomics in clinical trials and observational studies, I investigate the natural history of infections and immunity to inform the design of diagnostic tools, vaccines, and other preventive measures.

I am part of the Clinical Infection Research Group (CIRG) in the Medical School at the University of Sheffield and am an Honorary Consultant Physician in Infectious Diseases in the South Yorkshire Regional Department of Infection and Tropical Medicine in Sheffield. I am also a Clinical Associate Professor at the Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine as a Principal Investigator in the Vaccines and Immunity Theme.

I completed my undergraduate medical training at the University of Bristol in 2000. Following postgraduate clinical training in General Internal Medicine, Infectious Diseases and HIV in Oxford and London, I moved to Sheffield for higher specialist training in Infectious Diseases & Microbiology in 2004. After relocating to The MRC Unit The Gambia in 2007, I was awarded a British Infection Society Research Fellowship (2007-8), followed by a MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship and PhD (2008 – 11) under the supervision of Professor Sarah Rowland-Jones and Professor Robin Weiss, to study the pathogenesis of HIV-2 infection and the molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 and HIV-2 in West Africa.

I joined the University of Sheffield in 2013 as an NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer in Infectious Diseases & Microbiology. I was awarded a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Clinical Fellowship (2016 -2021), based between Imperial College London and the MRC Unit The Gambia, to study the immunogenicity of intranasal Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine in children and bidirectional interactions with nasopharyngeal microbiota. I returned to the University of Sheffield as a Senior Clinical Lecturer in 2020 and led a programme of SARS-CoV-2 research through the COVID-19 pandemic, including roles as lead PI in Sheffield for the COG-UK consortium and the PITCH study. I was awarded an MBE in 2021 for services to COVID-19 research.

Research interests

My work involves molecular epidemiology and immuno-epidemiology to gain insights into population- and individual-level patterns of infections and immunity the following areas:

  1. Anti-viral immune responses in the context of vaccination and infection. A major focus is characterising mucosal and systemic immunity to influenza and SARS-CoV-2, including the impact of immunocompromising conditions such as HIV and haematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
  2. The molecular epidemiology of respiratory viruses.  As part of the COG-UK consortium, I led SARS-CoV-2 sequencing in Sheffield, with a specific interest in the use of sequencing to track hospital transmissions. Current projects are focusing on characterising the molecular epidemiology and household transmission of respiratory viruses in The Gambia, as well as evaluating and applying novel diagnostics and sequencing for pathogen detection in clinical use and surveillance.
  3. The epidemiology and immune responses to Streptococcus pyogenes. Driven by the need to understand the burden of S. pyogenes in Rheumatic Heart Disease endemic countries like The Gambia, I am involved in observational studies of S. pyogenes transmission and immunity as part of the MRC Gambia StrepA study group.

Key Projects

Mucosal and systemic immunity to influenza and SARS-CoV-2

  1. Hybrid immunity to SARS-CoV-2 in Zimbabwean adults with HIV and other chronic diseases (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2023 – 2026). Key collaborators: Professor Sarah Rowland-Jones, Professor Katharina Kranzer, Professor Andrew Prendergast.
  2. Study of SARS-CoV-2 systemic and mucosal immunity within a household transmission study in The Gambia (UKRI). Key collaborators: Prof. Beate Kampmann, Professor Adam Kucharski.
  3. Study of SARS-CoV-2 T-cell and antibody responses as part of the PITCH study, ISARIC4C consortium, UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium (UK-CIC) , OCTAVE study and IMMPROVE consortium.
  4. Part of a consortium to establish a Global Paediatric Cell Atlas of Nasal and Oral Mucosa (Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, 2021 – 2024).
  5. Supervisor for Dr. Ben Lindsey, Wellcome Trust 4ward North Clinical PhD fellowship on inflammatory memory in the upper respiratory tract following respiratory viral infections (2023 – 2026).

Molecular epidemiology of respiratory viruses

  1. University of Sheffield lead for the COVID-19 Genomics Consortium UK (COG-UK), using Oxford Nanopore Technology (ONT) to sequence SARS-CoV-2 isolates in South Yorkshire.  Building on our group’s sequencing expertise gained during this project, we are now focusing on optimising ONT-based assays with direct utility in NHS diagnostic microbiology and virology laboratories. This aligns work with key deliverables our group are leading within the Infection and Immunity Theme of NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).
  2. Surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses by establishment of a sentinel surveillance platform for influenza-like illness in The Gambia, along with a household transmission cohort (TransVir) with Prof. Beate Kampmann, Professor Adam Kucharski, Dr. Abdul Karim Sesay.

The epidemiology and immune responses to Streptococcus pyogenes

  1. Several clinical and molecular epidemiology studies forming part of the MRC Unit The Gambia Strep A research portfolio, with Dr. Claire Turner (School of Biosciences), and key collaborators Prof. Michael Marks, LSHTM; Dr. Annette Erhart, MRCG and Dr. Abdul Karim Sesay, MRCG.
  2. Co-supervisor for two Wellcome Trust Clinical PhD Training Fellows in Global Health (Dr. Edwin Armitage and Dr. Alex Keeley) who are using the platform of a household transmission study (SpyCATS) to explore transmission and natural immunity to S. pyogenes.
  3. Co-lead at the MRC Gambia in a global network of scientists seeking to define correlates of immune protection in natural infection with Streptococcus pyogenes (iSpy Network).

Show: Featured publications All publications

Journal articles

All publications

Journal articles


  • Abrahamian FM, Aldape MJ, Aldasoro E, Allen UD, Al-Sum H, Anadkat MJ, Anders K, Angelakis E, Angus BJ, Antoniadou A , Arena F et al (2017) List of Contributors, Infectious Diseases (pp. xv-xxxvi). Elsevier RIS download Bibtex download
  • De Silva TI & Green ST (2017) Managing the Patient with Recurring Skin Infections, Infectious Diseases (pp. 133-135.e1). Elsevier RIS download Bibtex download
  • Moysi E, de Silva T & Rowland-Jones S (2012) Immune Mechanisms of Viral Control in HIV-2 Infection, Models of Protection Against HIV/SIV (pp. 293-315). Elsevier RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ball TB, Barré-Sinoussi F, Biasin M, Blankson JN, Broliden K, Buckheit RW, Card CM, Clerici M, de Silva T, Fellay J , Fowke KR et al (2012) Contributors, Models of Protection Against HIV/SIV (pp. xi-xii). Elsevier RIS download Bibtex download

Conference proceedings papers

  • Miller PDE, de Silva T, Leonard H, Goddard K, Anthias C, Hoschler K, Peggs K, Madrigal A & Snowden JA (2017) Viral microneutralization assay to determine seasonal influenza vaccine immunogenicity in the first year post reduced intensity conditioning allogeneic HSCT. BONE MARROW TRANSPLANTATION, Vol. 52 (pp S269-S270) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Miller PDE, de Silva T, Skinner R, Gilleece M, Peniket A, Hamblin A, Greenfield D, Anthias C, Peggs K, Madrigal A , Snowden JA et al (2016) Routine Vaccination Programme (RVP) Practice after Adult and Paediatric Allogeneic Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant (HSCT): A British Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation (BSBMT) Survey of UK NHS-Based Programmes. BONE MARROW TRANSPLANTATION, Vol. 51 (pp S400-S401) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Meiring J, De Silva T & Snowden J (2015) A study of adherence to a vaccination schedule following adult allogenic haematopoietic stem cell transplants in UK transplant centre. BONE MARROW TRANSPLANTATION, Vol. 50 (pp S203-S204) RIS download Bibtex download


Teaching interests

I am involved in delivering the undergraduate (MBChB) Infectious Diseases, Tropical Medicine and Microbiology curriculum at the University of Sheffield. I also lecture on the MSc in Antimicrobial Resistance (MED404), Molecular Medicine MSc (MED6006) and Pharmacology of Respiratory Disease (CDL302, Biomedical Science).

Professional activities and memberships

National and International

  • British Infection Association Scientific and Research Secretary (2023 - )
  • Wellcome Trust Early Career Award Interview Committee, Infection and Immunobiology (2022 - )
  • Africa Research Excellence Fund ( College of Experts (2022 - )
  • British Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation and cellular therapy (BSBMTCt), vaccination subcommittee (2020 - ); Chair (2023 - )
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Infection (2019 - )


  • Co-Director, Florey Institute of Infection (2023 - )
  • Director of CL3 suite, Medical School, University of Sheffield (2022 - )
  • UREC Ethics reviewer for Medical School (2022 -)
  • University of Sheffield Biosafety Committee (2019 -)