RNA-Based Therapy for Cryptosporidium parvum Infection: Proof-of-Concept Studies

A. Castellanos-Gonzalez, A. Sadiqova, J. Ortega-Mendez, A. C. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Cryptosporidium is a leading cause of moderate-to-severe diarrhea in children, which is one of the major causes of death in children under 5 years old. Nitazoxanide is the only FDA-approved treatment for cryptosporidiosis. However, it has limited efficacy in immunosuppressed patients and malnourished children. Therefore, it is urgent to develop novel therapies against this parasite. RNA interference-mediated therapies are emerging as novel approaches for the treatment of infectious diseases. We have developed a novel method to silence essential genes in Cryptosporidium using single-stranded RNA (ssRNA)/Argonaute (Ago) complexes. In this work we conducted proof-of-concept studies to test the anticryptosporidial activity of these complexes by silencing Cryptosporidium parvum nucleoside diphosphate kinase (NDK) using in vitro and in vivo models. We demonstrated that a 3-day treatment with anti-sense NDK ssRNA/Ago decreased parasite burden by;98% on infected cells. In vivo studies showed that ssRNA/Ago complexes encapsulated in lipid nanoparticles can be delivered onto intestinal epithelial cells of mice treated orally. In addition a cryptosporidiosis-mouse model showed that treatment with NDK ssRNA/ Ago complexes reduced oocyst shedding in 4/5 SCID/beige mice during the acute phase of the infection. Our findings highlight the potential use of antisense RNA-based therapy as an alternative approach to cryptosporidiosis treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Argonaute
  • Cryptosporidium
  • NDK
  • cryptosporidiosis
  • gene silencing
  • siRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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