Thursday March 17, 2016
South Burlington resident Caroline Lyons, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine at the University of Vermont (UVM)’s Vaccine Testing Center, is co-leading a team to design a research platform upon which new treatments for cryptosporidiosis can be tested in humans. Cryptosporidiosis, or Crypto for short, is an infection caused by Cryptosporidium, a single-celled intestinal parasite found in soil, food, and water, which causes significant illness and death in immunocompromised individuals. Crypto is a leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children in the developing world and there are limited treatment options for this infection, as well as no existing vaccines to treat or prevent. Crypto has gained significant attention in the global public health realm and attracted funding to develop new antimicrobial agents to treat the parasitic infection, as well as assess vaccine feasibility.
Lyons, along with fellow researchers Christopher Huston, M.D., associate professor of medicine, and Beth Kirkpatrick, M.D., professor of medicine, are preparing to test new therapeutic agents against Cryptosporidium. The research, made possible by a $3.3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to UVM, is scheduled to be performed over three and a half years.
“Diarrheal illness caused by Cryptosporidium, and the long term consequences of this illness has been underappreciated in children in the developing world,” notes Huston. “Fortunately, recent large scale international studies have brought this problem to the attention of the public health community.”
UVM has extensive expertise studying Cryptosporidium. Huston and Kirkpatrick, along with John Barlow, D.V.M., Ph.D., UVM professor of animal sciences, have studied the pathogenic potential and immunology of Cryptosporidium for more than 15 years.
“Dr. Huston’s novel high-throughput drug-testing methods have been a major advance in the development of new drugs against Cryptosporidium,” says Kirkpatrick. “This new award brings us closer to testing the effectiveness of these drugs in humans.”
Lyon, who will provide the clinical expertise in carrying out the clinical trials of Cryptosporidium and the new therapeutics, adds, “The opportunity to combine our laboratory innovation and clinical expertise to address such a globally important need is truly exciting for us and the university.”