In the developing world, Cryptosporidium parvum has long been the scourge of freshwater. A decade ago, it announced its presence in the United States, infecting over 400,000 people – the largest waterborne-disease outbreak in the county's history. Its rapid ability to spread, combined with an incredible resilience to water decontamination techniques, such as chlorination, led the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United Sates to add C. parvum to its list of public bioterrorism agents. Currently, there are no reliable treatments for cryptosporidiosis, the disease caused by C. parvum, but that may be about to change with the identification of a target molecule by investigators at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC). The findings of this study were published online on September 23, 2013 in the Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (AAC) journal. "In the young, the elderly, and immunocompromised people such as people infected with HIV/AIDS, C. parvum is a very dangerous pathogen. Cryptosporidiosis is potentially life-threatening and can result in diarrhea, malnutrition, dehydration, and weight loss," says first author of the study, Dr. Momar Ndao, Director of the National Reference Centre of Parasitology (NRCP) at the MUHC and an Assistant Professor of the Departments of Medicine, Immunology, and Parasitology (Division of Infectious Diseases) at McGill University. The oocysts of C. parvum, which are shed during the infectious stage, are protected by a thick wall that allows them to survive for long periods outside the body as they spread to a new host. C. parvum is a microscopic parasite that lives in the intestinal tract of humans and many other mammals.
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