The KRYPTO project is determining the reasons behind the increase in cases of cryptosporidiosis

July 8/2019

The protozoan parasite Cryptosporidium causes intestinal infection, cryptosporidiosis, in humans and animals. Previously, the C. parvum diarrhoea in calves has been rare in Finland, but during the past decade, the cases have multiplied. Cryptosporidiosis in calves causes severe problems especially on dairy farms. From dairy farms, cryptosporidiosis is easily transmitted by calves to calf-rearing facilities. Also the cases of human cryptosporidiosis have quickly increased tenfold.

There are many challenges related to the management of the transmission risk, and tackling these challenges is the goal of the recently launched KRYPTO project. The three-year project will start with epidemiological studies of both the human cases and dairy farms.

The project is a collaboration between the Finnish Food Authority, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, the Animal health ETT association, University of Helsinki, Valio Oy and the European Union Reference Laboratory for Parasites. The project is funded by the Development Fund for Agriculture and Forestry (Makera). 

The transmission and management of Cryptosporidium on dairy farms

The strong increase in cases suggests that the structural changes in the cattle-farming sector favour the occurrence of cryptosporidiosis. Therefore, it will be determined during this project, which factors and conditions assist the transmission of the infection and the occurrence of disease outbursts on farms. Supported by information, the risk-management procedures can be directed correctly and, thereby, the wellbeing of animals can be improved and infections in humans can be prevented.

The farm survey will examine, among others, the methods of operation (calving conditions, colostrum feeding, calf facilities, hygiene practices and preventive measures against infections), animal transportations, events on the farm preceding the outbreak, other cattle illnesses and, for example, the possibility of water-borne infections.

Dairy farms of more than 50 cows where C. parvum has been found in the diarrhoea samples of calves are invited to participate in the study. The study will invite randomly selected Valio dairy farms where no diarrhoea problems involving calves have been detected during the past year to participate as control farms.

The farm can provide their survey responses electronically, in writing or via telephone. The survey will be conducted during the winter season of 2019 - 2020. Also the control farms will be requested to send faecal samples from calves for laboratory analysis, so that information can be obtained on the occurrence of the protozoa as a latent infection and on the occurrence of various subtypes. 

Sources of human cryptosporidiosis infections

A determination of the sources of human cryptosporidiosis infections and the reasons behind the infections will be required, because a significant increase in cases has been observed. The sources of infections will be determined on the basis of interviews with those who have caught the disease. It is important for all those suspecting that they might have caught the infection to seek healthcare. By typing the human and bovine Cryptosporidium, the research group aims to determine the origin of the infections and whether the infections are connected with each other.

Practical instructions and preparations for epidemics

Practical instructions on the management of cryptosporidiosis will be compiled on the basis of the project results. Cattle farms need instructions with consideration of, for example, calf-rearing facilities, medication, disinfection in various conditions, as well as instructions on animal transportation, occupational safety, handling of manure and disease management. Occupational health services in the agricultural sector needs practical guidance on the prevention and diagnosis of infections.

The project will provide information for preparing for C. parvum water epidemics bursting out via use of water for household consumption or recreational purposes, and even find ways of preventing the spreading of Cryptosporidium via run-off water from the farms to water systems and via irrigation water to vegetable plantations.

Project description:
Cryptosporidiosis – an emerging zoonosis from cattle KRYPTO

For more information, please contact:
Responsible project leader: Tiina Autio, Finnish Food Authority, tiina.autio@ruokavirasto.fi,
tel. +358 44 720 1492
Cryptosporidiosis in calves: Tuulia Enbom, Project Researcher, Finnish Food Authority, tuulia.enbom@ruokavirasto.fi, tel. +358 50 349 5193
Cryptosporidiosis in humans: Ruska Rimhanen-Finne, Veterinary epidemiologist, National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), ruska.rimhanen-finne@thl.fi, tel. +358 29 524 8942
Water analyses: Ilkka Miettinen, Chief Researcher, National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), ilkka.miettinen@thl.fi, tel. +358 29 524 6371
Occupational health: Sirpa Laitinen, Senior Specialist, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (TTL), sirpa.laitinen@ttl.fi, tel. +358 46 851 1911