Samira Mubareka | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Samira Mubareka

Samira Mubareka, physician, virologist, researcher, FRCPC (born 1972 in Gottingen, Germany). Dr. Mubareka is an infectious diseases physician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and an Associate Professor in Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto. She served on the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table from 2020 to-2022. Along with other Canadian researchers, she worked to isolate the SARS-CoV-2 virus and sequence the virus’s genome. (See also Covid-19 Pandemic in Canada).

Samira Mubareka

Early life and Education

Samira Mubareka was born in Gottingen, Germany in 1972. Along with her mother, Kathy Elizabeth Cannon, and her father, Aboud Mubareka, she moved to rural New Brunswick at the age of two. In a 2021 interview with Ryan Hiebert, Mubareka expressed that this small-town environment encouraged freedom, hard work, a sense of community and a love of the natural world. Her mother’s collection of literature further inspired her curiosity and love of learning.

As a high school student, Mubareka was reportedly fascinated with brain science and wanted to train as a neuroscientist (see neuroscience). However, her growing interest in helping others led her to study medicine instead. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of New Brunswick and then attended Dalhousie University (Halifax, Nova Scotia) where she earned her MD in 1999. While she initially intended to become a family doctor, Mubareka became interested in infectious diseases and decided to pursue infectious diseases as a sub-specialization.

Mubareka completed her specialist training at McGill University (Montreal, Quebec) in Internal Medicine in 2002. She then went on to continue specialist training at the University of Manitoba (Winnipeg) in Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology, which she completed in 2005. In 2009, Mubareka completed a research fellowship in the Department of Microbiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine (New York City) (see Microbiology). There, she worked with Dr. Peter Palese to explore various avenues of virus transmission, such as through aerosols. Mubareka’s research focused on the aerobiology of virus transmission.


Upon her return to Canada, Samira Mubareka continued to research the ways that viruses are transmitted and spread. As both a clinician and scientist, Mubareka joined Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (Toronto, Ontario) as a medical microbiologist and an infectious disease consultant. Her research interests have focused on infectious diseases and immunopathology. Mubareka studies zoonotic viruses, which are viruses that are transmitted between animals and humans. Her early research focused primarily on the transmission of influenza viruses, which can infect different species. Her research evolved to include coronaviruses. (See also COVID-19 Pandemic in Canada; SARS in Canada.)

Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Structural Morphology of the COVID-19 Virus

When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in 2020, Samira Mubareka co-founded the Sunnybrook Translational Research Group for Emerging and Respiratory Viruses (SERV) along with Dr. Robert Kozak. Mubareka also worked with a group of scientists from Sunnybrook, including Kozak and Dr. Arinjay Banerjee, to study SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic.

In early 2020, the team gathered coronavirus specimens from the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Canada, a 56-year-old male patient at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, who had recently travelled from Wuhan, China. In addition to being part of a team of doctors treating the patient, Mubareka performed a nasal swab after the patient was moved to an isolation room. Her research team later used whole-genome sequencing technology in order to isolate the SAR-CoV-2 genome sequence. The team shared their findings with other researchers, helping to establish the groundwork for further research into COVID-19 diagnosis, vaccines and therapies. The team worked to find effective strategies to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19, in addition to researching effective treatments and vaccines. SERV’s research findings were used to develop a hospital-based diagnostic test for COVID-19.

During the pandemic, Mubareka also served as a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, which operated from July 2020 to September 2022. Comprised of volunteer scientists, the advisory table provided guidance regarding the province’s response to the pandemic as well as information for the general public. She was also a member of the Steering Committee for Ontario’s COVID-19 Genomics Rapid Response Coalition and joined Canada’s COVID-19 Expert Panel as a biomedical and clinical sciences expert. Mubareka was also a member of the Implementation Committee of the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network VirusSeq Project (Genome Canada).

As the pandemic progressed, Mubareka became interested in the ways that SARS-CoV-2 transmits between humans and animals. She worked with a team identifying the first cases of COVID-19 in wildlife populations in Canada and found a significantly divergent COVID-19 variant that emerged in white-tailed deer. Her work pointed out the risk of deer re-introducing variants into the human population. Mubareka’s research highlights the close interrelationship between humans, animals and the ecosystem and maintains that it is vital for people to recognize the connection between healthy humans, animals and ecosystems.

Policy, Research and Teaching

Samira Mubareka’s research can contribute towards policy changes. She serves as the chair of the Working Group on One Health with the Royal Society of Canadas. The Working Group was formed to further explore the connections between humans, animals and their shared environments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and avian influenza outbreaks. In its 2022 report, the Working Group called for a paradigm shift in the way that health experts and the public look at human health. The Working Group advocated for a collaborative approach where people study the interrelationship between the health of humans, animals, plants and the environment. This represents a shift from the medical model previously used, which places humans at the center. The One Health approach recognizes that wider issues such as climate change and declining biodiversity affect human health and the spread of zoonotic diseases.

Additionally, Mubareka is the Biological Hazards Lead at the Centre for Research Expertise in Occupational Diseases at the University of Toronto. Here, her work focuses on occupational disease, or illness caused by exposure to workplace hazards. She has studied the production of bioaerosols in influenza patients and the transmission of influenza and coronavirus in agriculture. In addition to her diverse and prolific work as a research scientist, Mubareka is on the faculty of the University of Toronto as an Associate Professor in Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology.

Personal Life

Samira Mubareka’s interests include music. She also enjoys spending time in nature, camping, hiking, kayaking and canoeing.

Honours and Awards

  • Fellow, Royal College of Physicians of Canada (2009)

Further Reading

External Links