Cryptosporidium is the pathogenic agent of cryptosporidiosis, a disease mainly characterized by diarrhea in humans and livestock. Transmission of Cryptosporidium can result from ingestion of contaminated food/water, or by direct transmission from host to host. In humans, prevalence and severity of infection is increased in infants, in the elderly and in immunodeficient people including AIDS patients. In Africa and Asia, Cryptosporidium was described as the second infectious agent responsible for infant mortality, related to severe diarrhea in children under 5 years of age.
In a context of human health concern, Cattle have been considered to be Cryptosporidium oocysts primary reservoirs. A sick animal could produce and disseminate in the environment millions or even billions of infectious parasites per day. Cryptosporidiosis in calves leads to stunted growth, loss of yield and the death of the most vulnerable animals.
Reducing the presence and spread of this parasite in farms will have an impact not only on the economic balance of farms, but also on the threat raised by this parasite to human health.
Prophylactic strategies to reduce spread of Cryptosporidium parasites in farms are difficult to apply. The high resistance of Cryptosporidium parasite to environmental condition and chemical treatment leads to a difficult control of cryptosporidiosis dissemination.
Therapeutic approaches are limited by the absence of a fully effective drug against Cryptosporidium. This current lack of treatment is mainly due to the absence of an automated device able to detect activities of molecules against the parasite. Such studies require either expensive and ethically challenged animal research, or the establishment of tests on infected cell cultures that are analyzed under microscope.
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