Challenges for Cryptosporidium Population Studies
Cryptosporidiosis is ranked sixth in the list of the most important food-borne parasites globally, and it is an important contributor to mortality in infants and the immunosuppressed. Recently, the number of genome sequences available for this parasite has increased drastically. The majority of the sequences are derived from population studies of Cryptosporidium parvum and Cryptosporidium hominis, the most important species causing disease in humans. Work with this parasite is challenging since it lacks an optimal, prolonged, in vitro culture system, which accurately reproduces the in vivo life cycle. This obstacle makes the cloning of isolates nearly impossible. Thus, patient isolates that are sequenced represent a population or, at times, mixed infections. Oocysts, the lifecycle stage currently used for sequencing, must be considered a population even if the sequence is derived from single-cell sequencing of a single oocyst because each oocyst contains four haploid meiotic progeny (sporozoites). Additionally, the community does not yet have a set of universal markers for strain typing that are distributed across all chromosomes. These variables pose challenges for population studies and require careful analyses to avoid biased interpretation. This review presents an overview of existing population studies, challenges, and potential solutions to facilitate future population analyses.