Thilinie Bandaranayake, MBBS, is a infectious disease specialist who treats a variety of conditions, including infections in the bloodstream, soft tissue, and joints, as well as hospital-acquired conditions including pneumonia.
“I am fascinated by how these tiny micro-organisms that you can’t even see can cause devastating illness and outcomes,” says Dr. Bandaranayake. There are times when she is learning something new almost every day, often consulting with other types of specialists since infectious diseases can affect multiple organs. “Sometimes you don’t know what you’re treating and you go into the patient’s history and you find things—like an experience they had while traveling—that help you diagnose,” she says. “The problem could be bacterial, fungal, viral, parasitic—it could be anything. If you identify a condition and treat it properly, it can make a world of difference.”
Some infectious diseases are challenging, but the majority are treatable, Dr. Bandaranayake says. “Sometimes you see a patient in the intensive care unit and they are really sick, maybe intubated. Then you see them again in the outpatient clinic, walking, talking, looking totally different. Seeing a patient lead a normal life after a serious infection is very rewarding,” she says.
Dr. Bandaranayake is also a researcher with an interest in the immune system and how age affects immune responses to such diseases as measles, adenovirus, and cytomegalovirus (a common virus that a healthy immune system can usually fight off). She is also involved in clinical trials to develop better treatments for HIV.