Cryptosporidium: A Great Model To Study A Human Parasite

By Stephen M

The parasite Cryptosporidium is one of the major causes of infant mortality. This intestinal parasite also causes malnutrition and stunted growth in children. As such, scientists have taken an interest in investigating the parasite’s life cycle.

Image courtesy of @tima-miroshnichenko / Pexels

Researchers have been studying the parasite for a while. He indicated that the threat posed by the parasite was born during reproduction acts and transmitted via contaminated water. Therefore, breaking their ability to have sex will break their transmission and infection, he added.

The research findings

Researchers at UPenn have been investigating how the parasite reproduces inside a host. Using advanced imaging techniques in a lab, they can observe the entire life cycle of the parasite. In a new paper, the scientists indicated the parasites undergo three asexual cycles of replication before transforming into their male and female forms.

Their observation confirms physician and parasitologist Edward Tyzzer’s description of the parasite and disproves the 1970’s introduction of an intermediate stage. One of the lead researchers mentioned that their discoveries debunk things students see in textbooks.

Image courtesy of Muthgapatti Kandasamy and Boris Striepen / UPenn

He went on to mention that the parasite’s lifecycle is pretty simple. It’s completed in three days and there are only three types of cells: asexual, male, and female.

The researchers found that transforming from asexual to sexual form is critical for the parasite’s ability to move from one host to another. It is also needed in case of chronic infection in the host. Therefore, blocking this transition is an effective way to cure and prevent diseases.

The researchers believe that their study will contribute to researching parasite development in the future.