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Breaking the Cycle

Life cycle of the diarrhoea-causing parasite cryptosporidium is simpler than first thought

02 June 2022

Breaking the Cycle

As research delves deeper it tends to reveal ever-more complex details of the processes underpinning life and disease. So it’s a welcome change for a study into cryptosporidium (red in the mouse intestine pictured), a parasite that commonly causes diarrhoea in children, to discover that its life cycle is actually more simple than conventionally believed. The researchers observed the parasite as it reproduced in sample cells and found it followed a rigid routine of three asexual replications before switching to male and female forms for sexual reproduction and further spreading. This contradicts the previous impression that there was a specialised intermediate stage between the asexual and sexual forms. Unlike mosquito-borne parasites, cryptosporidium just relies on one host, so is a simpler model to examine parasite progression, meaning that this revelation could point towards both new tactics to tackle diarrhoea, and potentially provide insights into other conditions like malaria.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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