Establishment of insectary facilities for the maintenance of potential leishmaniasis vectors and study on systematics, biology and bionomics of sandflies in Sri Lanka.

NRC Grant:  16-142

Dr. P.A.D.H. Nayana Gunathilaka
Department of Parasitology
Faculty of Medicine
University of Kelaniya
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Medical Entomology and Molecular Medicine.



General objective

 To establish facilities and techniques for the maintenance of medically important sandfly species at insectary settings.

Specific objectives

 To study the physiology and taxonomy of sandfly species.

 To develop a morphological identification key to the common sandfly species in Sri Lanka.

 To study the bionomics of leishmaniasis vectors.

 To map geographical distribution of leishmaniasis vectors.

 To study potential socio-demographic and environmental risk factors of leishmaniasis transmission in selected disease endemic areas.

 To establish a research and training centre for leishmaniasis vectors.


Leishmaniasis is a complex vector-borne disease caused by Leishmania sp. (Kinetoplastida: Trypanosomatidae) and is transmitted by female sandflies (Diptera: Psychodidae). It is endemic in 88 countries where the prevalence is 12 million and 350 million people are at risk. Sri Lanka is the newest reported focus of leishmaniasis in the Indian subcontinent where the disease is caused by the most virulent visceralizing species, L. donovani. However, the potential for visceralization in the cutaneous variant of L. donovani in Sri Lanka is not known. The studies on vector biology is essential to understand leishmaniasis epidemiology and to implement cost-effective vector control measures.

There has been very little published research on the taxonomy, geographical distribution, prevalence and biology of sandflies in Sri Lanka. Even the vector of the disease is yet to be confirmed apart from some recent studies showing the vectorial capacity of Phlebotomus (Euphlebotomus) argentipes. Therefore, proper identification of the sandfly vector species is of paramount importance. Unfortunately, the number of sandfly species present in the country is still unknown.

Colonies of insect vectors are suitable for a wide range of investigations, from basic biological aspects to applied research. Laboratory colonies are essential for studies on sandfly biology and sandfly-Leishmania interaction. The studies on sandflies are essential to determine the fauna, their distribution, population dynamics, involvement in leishmania transmission and ultimately for building up cost effective control methods for ultimate goal of the disease control. There is no proper insectary in Sri Lanka which maintains the medically important sandflies for experimental research purposes as described above.

Therefore, the proposed project will be initiated to establish facilities and techniques for the maintenance medically important leishmaniasis vectors. Thereby, key research areas such as physiology of sandflies, epidemiology leishmaniases, parasite vector-host relationships, systematic of leishmaniasis vectors, vector biology and vector bionomics will be studied in detail. Hence, the establishment of a sandfly colony at a laboratory setting would be an useful effort to study about the above aspects which, no adequate studies performed in Sri Lanka up till now. This study may add new information to the existing knowledge of leishmaniasis disease in Sri Lanka, which would also facilitate to adopt appropriate control measures up on evidence based approaches. Further, the proposed laboratory will be expanded as a training and research centre with sufficient material and facilities for experimental research on leishmaniasis in the country.