Most people will have to deal with some form of intestinal distress in their lifetime and often this is the result of a parasite called cryptosporidium parvum. This horrid parasite is the cause of two-thirds of intestinal distress-based deaths in the developing world. It has a tough outer layer which allows it to live in a variety of environments for a long time. This includes chlorinated pools, which accounts for many infections in the developed world. For most healthy individuals, this parasite will clear the body’s system within a few weeks, but for people in the third world, this simple parasite can mean grueling sickness or even death. Luckily, researchers at the University of Georgia have found a way to do further research into creating a cure that is accessible and beneficial for people from all walks of life.
While there is currently a medicine that can ease the issues that come along with cryptosporidium called Nitazoxadine, it is not effective for people in the developing world because it is hard to access and is expensive. This is particularly bad news for young children in developing countries. Since many children are undernourished and lack access to clean water, they can often develop chronic diarrhea and cannot replenish water supplies, thus leading to dehydration and sometimes even death.
Understanding that this disease is a problem both in the developed and developing world, scientists have desperately been seeking a cure.
When attempting to develop a cure for most diseases, scientists first target the basic genes of the parasite or source of infection. In order to do so, scientists have to grow the bacterium or parasite in large quantities in the lab, which was virtually impossible, making it highly difficult for scientists to analyze the parasite and thus even more difficult for them to find out if any of their medicines were working. Luckily, Professor Boris Striepen and his colleagues at the University of Georgia Athens have discovered a way to test their medicines.
By giving small doses of cryptosporidium to animals in the lab, scientists have been able to test their medications in a controlled environment. The animals are always treated with plenty of fluids, antidiarrheals and are always kept safe. Since this parasite cannot be grown in a lab, it is best to propagate it in the stomach of an organism that it can actually affect. By giving the animals medications, scientists will be able to easily identify which treatments are most effective and cure the animals with known drugs so as not to bring any harm to them.
The major benefit of finding a proper method of growing the parasite is that it allows scientists to have a consistent method of investigation on the growth patterns and development of this specific parasite. Perhaps they will find a way to replicate the environment that exists within mammals that permits the parasite to flourish so clearly.
While this is just the beginning of discovery as to which drugs will be most accessible for people in the third world, it is really a huge step into a healthier and happier world.
– Sumita Tellakat
Sources: NPR, CDC
Photo: Medical Daily