Tropical Medicine Research Center (TMRC) Project
Epidemiology and transmission of Leishmania donovani infections in Sri Lanka and Bhutan
Parasitic Diseases Research Unit, Department of Parasitology
Faculty of Medicine
The Tropical Medicine Research Center (TMRC) project is financially supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA through a TMRC Award (Grant No. U01AI136033). TMRC grants are much sought after and highly prestigious awards given every 5 years, with only Seven Centers across the world awarded such grants during the last cycle in the year 2017 (https://www.niaid.nih.gov/research/tropical-medicine-research-centers). The project was initiated in 2017 by a team at the Parasitic Disease Research Unit and is led by Professor Nadira Karunaweera, Senior Professor and Chair of Parasitology in collaboration with the University of California, Irvine, USA and the Khesar-Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan.
Main aims of this study include (i) understanding the occurrence, the disease process in humans, its management and the spread of leishmaniasis in Sri Lanka and Bhutan using biological, epidemiological and molecular tools, (ii) dissecting the role and properties of the vector and its environment to enable infection control in Sri Lanka and Bhutan and (iii) investigating genetic factors in Phlebotomus argentipes associated with transmission efficiency and dynamics in Sri Lanka.
The leishmaniases are a group of diseases that are considered among the least studied and most neglected of tropical diseases. Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) is an established disease in Sri Lanka with an outbreak situation that occurred in 2001 with a steady rise in disease incidence to date. This funding support from the NIH, USA to the University of Colombo in 2017, was a continuation of financial support that started in 2012 through an R01 Award (NIH AI099602) that sponsored the pioneering research program on leishmaniasis that Prof. Karunaweera and her team continues since the year 2001 (with the initial funding support coming from the National Science Foundation, Sri Lanka and the University of Colombo) [LINK]. The collaborations built through the TMRC award are designed to facilitate research on the cause, diagnosis, disease pathology, pathogenesis, effective disease management, prevention, control and to create and sustain in-country research capacity with strengthened international collaborations. The ongoing studies continue to provide critical information in a systematic manner, on many aspects of leishmaniasis with a special focus on diagnosis, patient management, epidemiology, vector ecology and transmission, which are desperately needed for national-level planning of leishmaniasis control and subsequent elimination both in Sri Lanka and Bhutan