PI: Kristen Jellison

Co-PI(s): Sabrina Jedlicka

University: Lehigh University

As infrastructure ages, threats to the nation’s water supply are imminent; waterborne disease will become an increasing public health risk and treatment challenge for the medical community. Waterborne pathogens such as cryptosporidium are a particular concern because they can circumvent conventional water treatment processes and cause severe gastrointestinal disease for which there are no prophylactic options and limited post-infection treatments. The only drug available for the treatment of cryptosporidiosis is only somewhat helpful for otherwise healthy populations and not effective for immunocompromised patients. The development of more robust and effective therapeutics is limited by several factors, one of which is related to the mechanism of pathogen binding to intestinal epithelial cells. Current in vitro cell culture models do not account for the influence of the intestinal microbiome on parasite attachment and disease progression and are thus not representative of the biological conditions in the human intestinal tract. The proposed work will employ a combination of scientific tools and knowledge, including those from cell biology, biophysics, and microbiology, to develop a biomimetic intestinal model that accounts for the influence of the intestinal microbiota on cryptosporidium attachment and infectivity–paving the way for future studies and translational discoveries to combat waterborne pathogens.