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Review article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd
Volume (Issue) 160(6)
Page(s) 363 - 374
Title of proceedings Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd
DOI 10.17236/sat00163


Diarrhea in calves is one of the most important cattle diseases in Switzerland. The diagnosis and treatment of calf diarrhea represent a major challenge. Single-celled Cryptosporidium parasites are the most prevalent causative agents of calf diarrhea besides rotavirus in the first weeks of life, and are responsible for about 50% of diarrheal cases. Cryptosporidium parvum has been described as a cause of diarrhea in one to three weeks old calves since the 1970s. Oral ingestion of persistent environmental oocysts results in severe diarrhea lasting four to six days and shedding of large numbers of infectious oocysts. A tiny amount of 10 oocysts is already sufficient to cause disease. Detailed knowledge about the epidemiology and virulence of the different C. parvum strains is still lacking. In addition, current diagnostic tests cannot reliably distinguish between non-pathogenic (e.g. C. bovis) and pathogenic Cryptosporidium species. Until now, no effective therapeutic drug or vaccine against calf cryptosporidiosis has been found. Water-borne epidemics and the zoonotic potential of Cryptosporidium in immunodeficient patients are of great medical importance. The increasing number of cryptosporidiosis cases associated with high infant mortality in less industrialized and impoverished regions (including South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa) has intensified the research in recent years. The recent discoveries of new therapeutics against C. parvum may benefit calf medicine in the near future. This review article reports on these new developments, highlights calf cryptosporidiosis in Switzerland and draws attention to a new research project.