New parasite study underway at Kent

By Emma Leach

Image credit: ulleo | Pixabay

A collaborative research project to tackle the UK’s leading cause of gastrointestinal infections is to start at the University of Kent.

The aim of the project is to develop a way for farmers to identify the Crytosporidium parasite which causes cryptosporidiosis, colloquially known as crypto, a respiratory and intestinal disease which affected 10 in every 100,000 people in 2016.

The parasite is zoonotic, meaning it can pass between animals of different species. Cattle, sheep, and goats are all reservoirs of the disease, and can pass the infection onto humans, through contact with the animals and their waste, or through contaminated water. This means that the study is not just of economic importance for farmers, but also has importance in public health.

The study is being led by Dr Anastasios Tsaousis, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Parasitology within the School of Biosciences. Other institutions involved in the project include: University of Kent’s School of Engineering and Digital Arts, University of East Anglia, the National Farmers Union, InAgro, the Southern Dutch Farmer and Horticulturalists Organisation, Yncréa, and the French National Centre for Scientific Research.

The approach to the problem is a multidisciplinary one. First, researchers will be working with farmer across Europe to identify the impact that crypto has on the dairy cattle industry. This stage will be followed up by the establishment of pilot farms where a new detection kit for the disease can be tested, with the view to reduce the number of contaminated cattle. Then, using a new electronic device for analysing useful compounds, it is hoped that a new anti-cryptosporidium pharmaceutical can be researched.

€3.7 million (£3.24 million) has been granted by the EU’s Interreg-2-seas fund for the project named ‘H4DC’ (Health for Dairy Cows), €1.37 million (£1.2 million) of which will be granted to the University of Kent for their part in the project.