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Progress against infectious diseases continues

Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 11:17am

Scientists' fight against cryptosporidiosis recently reached a major milestone:

Infectious disease scientists from research institutions including the University of Georgia have reported the discovery and early validation of a drug that shows promise for treating cryptosporidiosis, a diarrheal disease that is a major cause of child mortality and for which there is no vaccine or effective treatment.

"Cryptosporidiosis is largely a disease of poverty," said Boris Striepen, Distinguished Research Professor of Cellular Biology in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases. "Globally, it primarily affects infants in developing countries, but there are patients in the U.S.-those with weakened immune systems, such as HIV/AIDS or transplant patients-that would benefit greatly from new therapeutics."

Striepen began studying crypto, as researchers often call the parasite that causes cryptosporidiosis, more than a decade ago. Now he and Sumiti Vinayak, assistant research scientist at UGA's Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, along with scientists at Novartis and Washington State University, have reported the discovery of KDU731, a potent inhibitor of cryptosporidium, in the journal Nature.

Dr. Striepen's longterm commitment to finding new treatments for this notoriously difficult-to-work-with disease has yielded new techniques and organisms that reach far beyond his own lab. The discoveries and breakthroughs have an impact on the work of many research enterprises around the world, moving scientists that much closer to being able help the vast numbers of patients suffering from the disease. But Striepen's efforts particularly have progressed to the point where leverage with pharmaceutical development efforts is possible. Tremendous work, and very direct evidence of the commitment to tackling some of the world's most enduring challenges.

Image: Sumiti Vinayak, left, and Boris Striepen (Credit: Andrew Davis Tucker)

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