Tufts Veterinary School scientists decode Cryptosporidium genome

NORTH GRAFTON, Mass., Oct. 28, 2004 - A team of scientists at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine has helped decode the genome sequence of Cryptosporidium hominis, an insidious parasite identified as one of the most common causes of waterborne diseases in humans and classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a potential bioterrorist agent. The researchers' findings are reported in today's issue of the journal Nature.

Cryptosporidium hominis is a highly contagious parasite that lives in the intestines of infected humans. Since there are no effective treatments, it is a relentless public health concern.

"Sequencing the genome of Cryptosporidium will help us determine the underlying mechanisms of the organism's unusual resistance to antimicrobial agents, and enable us to develop preventive vaccines and/or pharmaceutical treatments," said Saul Tzipori, PhD, director of Tufts' Division of Infectious Diseases and a member of the multi-institutional team researching the genome.

Present in drinking and recreational water throughout the world, Cryptosporidium causes watery diarrhea that can lead to dehydration, weight loss, stomach cramps, fever, nausea, and vomiting. While healthy people usually overcome illnesses caused by the organism, it can be life threatening to malnourished children and people whose immune systems have been compromised because of cancer, AIDS, etc.

The Cryptosporidium pathogen, which can be found in the feces of both humans and animals, is difficult to work with, thereby impeding the efforts of investigators to conduct laboratory investigations and develop appropriate therapies.

Tufts researchers successfully isolated and propagated Cryptosporidium hominis in 2000, making Tufts the first research institution capable of propagating this pathogen.

In 2000, Tufts applied to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for funding to enable a consortium o

Contact: Barbara Donato
Tufts University

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