Pathogenicity of Cryptosporidium parvum - evaluation of an animal infection model

Heidi L. Enemark, Vivi Bille-Hansen, Peter Lind, Peter M. H. Heegaard, Håkan Vigre, Peter Ahrens, S.M. Thamsborg

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    With the intention of developing a standardised method for assessment of pathogenicity of Cryptosporidium parvum, the CPB-0 isolate was studied by propagation in 1-day-old calves followed by inoculation into specific pathogen free (SPF) piglets. The experiment was repeated. Diarrhoea and shedding of oocysts were seen in all animals infected with the CPB-0 isolate. Clinical signs included depression, inappetence, vomiting (exclusively in the piglets), and death. Histological examination at 17 and 19 days post-infection revealed parasitic stages and microscopic changes primarily restricted to colon and rectum. The unintended presence of rotavirus in some of the experimental animals revealed an additive or synergistic effect between rotavirus and C. parvum as indicated by prolonged diarrhoea, increased oocyst shedding, decreased weight gain and elevated levels of serum haptoglobin and serum amyloid A (SAA) in piglets infected simultaneously with both pathogens. The difference in daily weight gain between infected and control animals was significant only for piglets co-infected with rotavirus. The acute phase response of haptoglobin and SAA was characterised by a large individual variation. In piglets, co-infected with rotavirus, the levels of serum haptoglobin were 3.5 and 4.6 times higher in the infected versus the controls 6 and 9 dpi, respectively (mean values: 2411 mug/ml +/- S.D. 2023 and 1840 mug/ml +/- S.D. 1697). In the controls infected with rotavirus, peak haptoglobin concentration was seen 3 dpi (mean: 1022 mug/ml +/- S.D. 425). Elevated levels of SAA were seen in 1 of 6 piglets infected with C. parvum, and in 5 of 6 piglets co-infected with rotavirus. Tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) was undetectable in all serum samples from piglets. The obvious advantages of the SPF pig model are the naturally acquired intestinal microflora, the development of distinct clinical signs similar to cryptosporidiosis in humans and calves, the size of the animals, and the accessibility of individuals born within a short time span. This makes the model ideal for dose-response studies, evaluation of therapeutic agents as well as for assessment of differences in the clinical response to isolates of diverse genetic background. In conclusion, it was shown that the CPB-0 isolate was pathogenic to calves and piglets at a dose of 2.5 x 10(5) oocysts, and that the clinical signs could be replicated during separate experiments. Moreover, diarrhoea, oocyst shedding, body weight changes, histological alterations, and the acute phase response of haptoglobin and SAA were identified as useful parameters for discrimination of isolate-specific differences of pathogenicity.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalVeterinary Parasitology
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)35-57
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


    • acute phase response
    • oocyst shedding
    • pathogenicity
    • cattle-protozoa
    • pig-protozoa
    • Cryptosporidium parvum


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