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A hopeful time for Cryptosporidium research

By: Erica Moser Date: Apr 2, 2024
A lot of research progress has been over the past decade on Cryptosporidium , a single-celled parasite that is one of the leading causes of deadly diarrheal disease, and Penn Vet professors brought together researchers and clinicians from around the world for a conference. (Image: Muthgapatti Kandasamy and Boris Striepen)

Due to the many technical difficulties studying Cryptosporidium, scientists have struggled for many years to advance research on the single-celled parasite that is one of the leading causes of deadly diarrheal disease. Multiple breakthroughs in the past decade, says biologist Boris Striepen of the School of Veterinary Medicine, have made this a tractable pathogen and disease.

With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, the Striepen Lab and others have pursued an ambitious research agenda. Genetic engineering of the parasite, along with new culture and animal models, enabled progress toward drugs and vaccines. For the first time in many years, new candidate drugs have now entered human trials.

Striepen and Christopher Hunter, also of Penn Vet, sought to amplify these advances by organizing the First Biennial Cryptosporidium Meeting, held at Penn. It included academic researchers from across disciplines, scientists from leading pharmaceutical companies, representatives of United States and international public health agencies, and leading clinicians from some of most impacted countries, including Zambia, Kenya, Colombia, Bangladesh, and India.

“There had been transformational progress, and we thought this a great opportunity to bring everybody together to ask. Now that we have the tools to address this problem, where is the field and what should we do next?” Striepen says.

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