Benjamin Stone, M.D.
Education: Bachelor of Science in microbiology (May 2000)
Doctor of Medicine specializing in general surgery from the University of Kansas
McNair Project: Cryptosporidium parvum (1998)
Mentor: Steve Upton, Ph.D.
Cryptosporidium parvum is the causative agent of cryptosporidiosis. In animals and humans C. parvum infections are transmitted through the environmentally resistent oocyst (egg) stage. Once inside the host, the parasite is able to reproduce rapidly, inundating the environment with millions of new oocysts in a relatively short period of time. These oocysts are then shed in fecal material and are transmitted to other organisms that come into contact, directly or indirectly, with the infected fecal material. Cryptosporidiosis has been known to be contracted through contaminated drinking water, produce fertilized with fecal materials, direct contact through patient and child care, and even through public swimming pools.
Symptoms of cryptosporidiosis include: severe watery diarrhea, nausea, low-grade fever, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, weight loss, electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration. In otherwise healthy patients, the disease is usually self-regulating and patients recover within seven to fourteen days. In immunocompromised individuals, such as individuals infected with HIV, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, or individuals who have recently undergone bone marrow or organ transplants, the disease can be life-threatening, usually due to complications of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance that accompany severe diarrhea. The oocysts are resistant to many disinfecting agents, including chlorine, and presently there is no know treatment for the disease.
Using the dideoxy sequencing method and purification protocols, proteins from the C. parvum genome have been sequenced. By gaining an understandment of C. parvum at the molecular level, we will be able to better understand and eventually find a cure to cryptosporidiosis.