Parasitic Diseases Research Unit – PDRU

The Parasitic Diseases Research Unit of the Department of Parasitology was formerly known as the Malaria Research Unit (MRU) (1988-2016). With the Department of Parasitology giving wider attention to all parasitic diseases of public health importance, the name change took place in 2016.

Number of research projects are carried out at the Parasitic Diseases Research Unit (PDRU) contributing to the research and development activities in Sri Lanka. The PDRU also provides diagnostic services for various parasitic diseases.

The permanent staff members attached to the Department of Parasitology actively involve in the activities of the PDRU. In addition there are research assistants who are carrying out various research projects at the PDRU.


Head’s message

“Welcome to the Parasitic Diseases Research Unit (PDRU) of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo. PDRU started its journey as Malaria research Unit (MRU) in 1988 under the leadership of Professor Kamini Mendis who is a globally renowned pioneering researcher in the field of malaria. Along with the successful elimination of malaria in Sri Lanka MRU was later on converted to PDRU with a view to cater to the growing needs in the broad fields in parasitology. Research work of the PDRU is currently supported by researchers and academics of the department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine, Colombo and a large number of local and international collaborators.

At present, PDRU focuses on research and training in a number of parasitic diseases that are of national and global significance. Leishmaniasis, which is a recently established growing health issue in the island, filariasis, helminthiases, entomology and zoonotic infections are to name a few. In addition, PDRU contributes to the essential surveillance based research activities that are going on at a national scale for malaria in Sri Lanka. In addition MRU/PDRU has immensely contributed to many successful stories in the field of parasitology in Sri Lanka. Elimination of malaria, helminthaises, filariasis are few of these achievements in which our past and present academic staff members have contributed as pioneers.

Leishmaniasis in Sri Lanka presents a unique scientific problem and a growing health issue to the country. PDRU and department of Parasitology has pioneered many key research projects and provided diagnosis and training support in many diseases in the country. Though Sri Lanka is declared a malaria free nation in 2016, the PDRU is carrying out research on malaria to support Sri Lanka’s prevention of re-introduction phase of malaria . Similarly, research on filariasis is also being carried out by this unit.

Many post graduate level research, training and diagnostic activities are carried out in the PDRU. This unit continues to serve many young scientists, local and international medical and other professionals, para medics while strengthening its scientific collaborations with many international institutions.

We are thankful to all our researchers, trainers, supporters and well-wishers who have contributed to the development of this unit in numerous ways.”

Thirty six Ph.D.s and 6 M.Phil.s have been produced through PDRU.

This book would be of interest to persons who are working in the health sector, patients with leishmaniasis and the general public who wish to know the basics about leishmaniasis – by Dr. N.H. Silva

Grants awarded

  1. Grant received – University of New South Wales, Australia – To Prof. Deepika Fernando

New projects started in 2020 – ongoing research

  1. Screening high risk groups to prevent reintroduction of Malaria to Sri Lanka – PI Prof. Deepika Fernando
  2. Individuals identified as high risk will be screened for malaria using microscopy, Carestart RDT, a magneto-optical detector and PCR – PI Prof Deepika Fernando
  3. A sero-epidemiological study to provide supportive evidence to establish malaria elimination in Sri Lanka – PI Prof Deepika Fernando
  4. Novel and innovative strategies to control Anopheles stephensi and other malaria  vectors for prevention of re-introduction of malaria in Sri Lanka – PI Prof. Deepika Fernando
  5. Dengue infection in a cohort of Sri Lankan patients- Development of diagnostic and risk prediction models for use in clinical setting – PI Prof Deepika Fernando
  6. Toxoplasmosis and schizophrenia: Is there an association among Sri Lankan patients? A preliminary case-control study.  – PI Prof S. Gunawardena
  7. Characterization of antigens of medically important intestinal nematode eggs – PI Prof. S. Gunawardena
  8. A Multi-center, Double-blind, Randomized, 24-month study, to Compare the Efficacy of Doxycycline [once daily x 6 weeks] versus Placebo in improving Filarial Lymphedema (independent of active filarial infection).  – PI Prof S. Gunawardena
  9. To gain better insights in to the occurrence and the spread of leishmaniasis in Sri Lanka and Bhutan using biological, epidemiological and molecular tools – PI Prof N. Karunaweera –NIH – TMRC Project

Publications in 2020

  1. Deepachandi B, Weerasinghe S, Ranasinghe S, Andrahennadi TP, Wickramanayake MN, Siri S, Karunaweera N, Chandrasekharan V, Chattergee M, Soysa P, Siriwardana HVYD(2020) *. First serological study revealing high humoral response and evidence for antigenic heterogeneity in Leishmania donovani induced CL in Sri Lanka. Biomed Research international. Volume 2020 |Article ID 5271657 |
  2. Deepachandi B, Weerasinghe S, Gunathilake H, Andrahennadi TP, Wickramanayake MN, Siri S, Chandrasekharan V, Soysa P, Siriwardana HVYD (2020)*. Pre-validation of an ELISA for detection of a new clinical entity: Leishmania donovani induced cutaneous leishmaniasis. International Journal of Analytical Chemistry. Volume 2020 |Article ID 9289651 | 8 pages |
  3. Ejazi SA, Ghosh S, Saha S, Choudhury S.T, Bhattacharyya A, Chatterjee M, Pandey K, Das VNR, Das P, Rahaman M, Goswami R.P, Rai K, Bhattarai N.R, Deepachandi B, Siriwardana HVYD, Karunaweera N, Brito MEF, Gomes YM, Nakazawa M, Costa CHN, Adem E, Yeshanew A, Fikre H, Hurissa Z, Diro E, Moreno FJ, Ali N.(2020) A global comparative evaluation of the performance of immune-chromatographic dipstick test in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Ethiopia and Spain for the serodiagnosis of visceral leishmaniasis. Nature Scientific reports. 2019 Jul 9;9(1):9932.
  4. Ranaweera TT, Fernando DR, Siriwardana HVYD(2020)*. Physical activity level and participation in strength training (ST) activities among undergraduate female students. International Journal of Sports, Exercise and Health Research., 2020;4(1) DOI:
  5. Carter R, Karunaweera ND(2020). The Role of Improved Housing and Living Environments in Malaria Control and Elimination. Malaria Journal. 19:385.
  6. Karunaweera ND, Ginige S, Senanayake S, Silva H, Manamperi N, Samaranayake N, Siriwardana Y, Gamage D, Senerath U, Zhou G. (2020). Spatial Epidemiologic Trends and Hotspots of Leishmaniasis, Sri Lanka, 2001–2018. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 26(1). DOI:
  7. Silva H, Liyanage A, Deerasinghe T, Sumanasena B, Munidasa D, de Silva H, Weerasingha S, Fernandopulle R, Karunaweera ND(2020). Therapeutic response to thermotherapy in cutaneous leishmaniasis treatment failures for sodium stibogluconate: A randomized controlled proof of principle clinical trial. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. DOI: 10.4269/ajtmh.20-0855.
  8. Dewasurendra RL, Baniecki ML, Schaffner S, Siriwardena HVYD, Moon J, Doshi R, Gunawardena GSA, Daniels RF, Neafsey D, Volkman S, Chandrasekharan NV, Wirth DF, Karunaweera ND. (2020). Use of a Plasmodium vivax genetic barcode for genomic surveillance and parasite tracking in Sri Lanka. Malaria Journal.19:342.
  9. Pathirage DRK, Karunaratne SHPP, Senanayake SC, Karunaweera ND. (2020). Insecticide susceptibility of the sand fly leishmaniasis vector Phlebotomus argentipes in Sri Lanka. Parasit Vectors 13(1): 246.
  10. Pradhan A, Tobgay T, Dorjee S, Wangdi T, Zhou G, Karunaweera ND. (2020). Atypical presentation of post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis in Bhutan. Case Reports in Dermatological Medicine 2020: Article ID 8899586,
  11. Ahuja K, Vats A, Beg MA, Chaudhury A, Chatterjee M, Kariyawasam U, Karunaweera ND, Selvapandiyan A. (2020). High Resolution Melting based method for rapid discriminatory diagnosis of co-infecting Leptomonas seymouri in Leishmania donovani-induced leishmaniasis. Parasitology International. 75 : 102047.
  12. Deepachandi B, Weerasinghe S, Andrahennadi TP, Karunaweera N, Wickramarachchi N Soysa P, Siriwardana Y(2020). Quantification of soluble or insoluble fractions of Leishmania parasite proteins in micro-volume applications: a simplification to standard Lowry assay. International Journal of Analytical Chemistry. 2020:
  13. Rodrigo C, Fernando D, Rajapakse S (2020). Tafenoquine for preventing relapse in people with Plasmodium vivax Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD010458. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010458.pub3.
  14. Weerasekera CJ, Fernando SD (2020). Chemoprophylaxis for malaria: A Sri Lankan perspective. The Bulletin of the Sri Lanka College of Microbiologists .18: 50-54.
  15. Rodrigo C, Fernando D, Rajapakse S (2020). Clinical evidence for repurposing chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as antiviral agents: a systematic review. Clinical Microbiology and Infection. doi: 1016/j.cmi.2020.05.016.
  16. Samarakoon JN, De Silva NL, Fernando D (2020). Prevalence and associated factors of flat feet among patients with hypertension; findings from a cross sectional study carried out at a tertiary care hospital in Sri Lanka. Archives of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation. 3 (4): 076-083. Doi:10.26502/fapr0016
  17. Adikari T, Riaz N, Sigera C, Leung P, Valencia B, Barton K, Bull R, Li H, Luciani F, Weeratunge P, Thein TL, Lim V, Leo YS, Rajapakse S, Fink K, Lloyd A, Fernando D, Rodrigo C (2020) Single molecule, whole genome sequencing of dengue virus. Scientific Reports. 10:18196.
  18. Marasinghe MM, Karunasena VM, Senaratne AS, Herath HDB, Fernando D, Wickremasinghe R, Mendis K, Ranaweera D (2020). Mass radical treatment of a group of foreign workers to mitigate the risk of re-establishment of malaria in Sri Lanka. Malaria Journal. 19:346.
  19. Sigera PC, Rajapakse S, Weerathunga P, De Silva NL, Gomes L, ‪Malavige GN, Rodrigo C, Fernando SD(2020). Dengue and post infection fatigue: findings from a prospective cohort: the Colombo Dengue Study. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. doi:10.1093/trstmh/traa110
  20. Wijesinghe H, Gunathilaka N, Semege S, Pathirana N, Manamperi N, De Silva C, Fernando D (2020). Histopathology of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania donovani in Sri Lanka. BioMed Research International. Article ID 4926819.
  21. Gunathilaka N, Semege S, Pathirana N, Manamperi N, Udayanga L, Wijesinghe H, Premaratne P,  Fernando D (2020). Prevalence of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis infection and clinico-epidemiological patterns among military personnel in Mullativu and Kilinochchi Districts of the Northern Province; early war-torn areas in Sri Lanka. Parasites & Vectors
  22. Rajapakse S, Weeratunga PN, Balaj K, Ramchandani KC, De Silva U, Ranasinghe SA, Gunarathna D, Wijerathne PPB, Fernando N, Handunetti SM, Fernando SD (2020). Seroprevalence of leptospirosis in an endemic mixed urban and semi-urban setting – A community-based study in the district of Colombo, Sri Lanka. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
  23. Tissera HA, Jayamanne BDW, Raut R, Janaki SMD, Tozan Y, Samaraweera PC, Liyanage P, Ghouse A, Rodrigo C, De Silva AM, Fernando SD (2020). Severe dengue epidemic, Sri Lanka, 2017. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 26(4): 682-691.
  24. Fernand SD, Ranaweera D, Weerasena MS, Booso R, Wickramasekara T, Madurapperuma CP, Danansuriya M, Rodrigo C, Herath H (2020). Success of malaria chemoprophylaxis for outbound civil and military travellers in prevention of reintroduction of malaria in Sri Lanka. International Health, doi:10.1093/inthealth/ihz094.

Ph.Ds/ M. Phils awarded 2020

1. R. L. Dewasurendra, Ph. D. (Defining host responses and parasite genetics in the context of malaria elimination in Sri Lanka)

Supervisors – Prof. N. Karunaweera, Prof G. S. A. Gunawardena, Dr. N. V. Chandrasekharan

2. Hiruni Wijesooriya, M.Phil. (Host Innate Cellular Immune Response Against Leishmania donovani Causing Cutaneous Leishmaniasis in Sri Lanka)

Supervisors -Prof N. Karunaweera, Dr. N. Samaranayake