Contact Us  |  Search  
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research
Development, Security, and Cooperation
Policy and Global Affairs
Home About Us For Applicants For Grant Recipients Funded Projects Email Updates
Cycle 7 (2018 Deadline)

Developing dengue risk predictions from environmental, entomological, and societal information to aid public health management in Sri Lanka

PI: Pahalagedera Hewayalage Dona Kusumawathie (, Tropical Climate Guarantee
U.S. Partner: Aravinda de Silva, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Dates: November 2018 - October 2020

Project Overview:

Dengue is a major vector-borne viral disease that has become a serious public health problem in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, but the lack of a vaccine against it means that control programs rely on management of environmental and human factors. Dengue is highly intermittent, has some seasonality, and is showing an exponential rise in the last few decades (Hopp & Foley, 2003). Dengue outbreaks are primarily associated with climatic variables such as rainfall, temperature, and relative humidity. Usually peak transmission occurs after the rains in the areas where the mosquito population is high and temperature and humidity levels are optimal. Nevertheless, there can be situations where transmission is enhanced during droughts, as water storage becomes more important. Though the risk of epidemics is contingent on a complex set of social, environmental, climatic, and epidemiological factors and their prediction is fraught with uncertainty, climate is a critical factor. As there is a 1-2 month lag between heavy rains and dengue transmission, targeted weather monitoring can give advance warning of dengue risks and trigger alerts to the authorities to launch cleanup programs of potential breeding sites.

7-201 Balika Training7-201 Lab Test
Project team members teaching at the Muslim Balika Vidyalaya event.Dr. Kusumawathie preparing to observe mosquito eggs through the digital microscope (photos courtesy of Dr. Kusumawathie)

To address the problem of dengue in Sri Lanka, this project involves entomological surveillance, weather and climate impact analysis, vulnerability analysis, and the development of monitoring systems for mosquito abundance and vulnerability. The scientific objectives are to (1) identify relationships between prevalence and transmissivity of the dengue vectors and weather using routinely collected data; (2) identify relationships between abundance of vectors, incidence of dengue, and weather in the country’s Central Region; and (3) develop dengue risk prediction methodology based on weather for high-risk centers. Through these efforts the PI and her team will develop an early warning system for dengue risk using weather, climate, entomological and epidemiological information for Sri Lanka, working in close collaboration with the Central Province Health Department and National Dengue Control officials. These government officials will be engaged in helping to develop the risk prediction methodology and formats for dissemination. The PI and her team will share their results and recommendations with public health officers and other interested stakeholders via the Internet and in-person workshops.

Summary of Recent Activities:

Serious disruptions in the wake of the tragic 2019 Easter Bombings in Sri Lanka led to curfews and other security restrictions, so for a few months Dr. Kusumuwathie and her colleagues had to postpone some planned field activities on their project or even work from home. As time passed, the situation gradually returned to normal, so by July the PI and her team were able to report progress along several key lines. They obtained and set up four automatic weather stations in the Central Province, including portable temperature and humidity meters, and purchased other devices and test kits to be used in water quality monitoring. They also set up and supplied a small entomological lab with microscopes and digital camera equipment, developed the necessary lab protocols, and trained junior research staff. After obtaining required permissions, they agreed with entomological officers from the local public health service to collaborate with them on some of the planned lab work for the project. Other engagement efforts continued with regard to the three District Health Offices in the Central Province, with support being obtained from their directors, entomologists, and epidemiological staff, as well as staff from the National Dengue Control Unit of the Ministry of Health and the Anti-Malaria Campaign. PEER team members also visited most of the sub-district health offices. They have been working to collect the required dengue case, entomological, demographic, and meteorological data in the Central Province, broken down by health sub-district and village (GND) level. Separately, they are working to compile and inventory previously collected meteorological data (rainfall, temperature, and humidity) up to 2019. The team is also organizing, digitizing, and cleaning up the meteorological, entomological, demographic, and climate data for use in data visualization and mapping. With the data in hand, they can begin statistical analysis of the relationships between climate variables, entomological findings, and dengue incidence.

In addition to their research work, the team collaborated with the local government authority (Akurana Pradeshiya Sabhawa) to organize Environment Day activities at a Girls Middle and High School, Akurana Muslim Balika Vidyalaya, on June 5, 2019. Thanks to the presentations offered, the students gained greater awareness of local health and environmental problems, particularly as they might affect children.

The PI and her group will continue working in the remainder of 2019 on data collection and analysis, collaboration with their local partners, and preparation of research papers based on their findings.

Back to PEER Cycle 7 Grant Recipients