The sparkling ‘raindrops’ in this image are Cryptosporidium parasites.
Although less well known than the feared norovirus and rotavirus, ‘Crypto’ also infects the gut in humans and causes an equally unpleasant disease characterised by watery diarrhoea, which may be particularly dangerous in people with impaired immunity.
Worldwide, cryptosporidiosis is responsible for an estimated 200,000 deaths every year. Infection is usually spread through drinking or swimming in water contaminated with faeces or contact with other infected people or infected animals.
Stefanie labelled a particular protein (green) necessary for the complex Crypto life cycle; research is investigating the protein as a potential target for much-needed vaccines against cryptosporidiosis.