Nadira Dharshani Karunaweera is interested in the study of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium vivax. Malaria is counted among the worst scourges of mankind due to the high morbidity and mortality it causes, which affects approximately 40 percent of the global population. P. vivax is the most prevalent causative species of human malaria outside tropical Africa. Most symptoms associated with malaria are due to host and parasite factors associated with the infection. Identification of these factors would enable better control of disease manifestations.
As a Radcliffe Institute fellow, Karunaweera plans to study the genetic diversity of P. vivax malaria parasites in Sri Lanka by characterizing the genetic structure of parasite isolates from local patients. She will conduct experiments to analyze the genetic diversity at different loci. With these studies, Karunaweera hopes to gain insight into the genetic structure and diversity of the local malaria parasites and the probable time of origin of these parasites by making comparisons with similar data from other regions of the world.
Karunaweera earned her medical degree and PhD at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. She joined the same university as a lecturer and was promoted to senior lecturer and then professor. Her honors include fellowships from the World Health Organization and European Union, as well as awards from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Sri Lanka College of Microbiologists, and the Presidential Award for Science in Sri Lanka.