Cryptosporidium outbreaks have become big news, both globally and for the recreational aquatics industry in the United States.

A recent report from the CDC revealed that from 2000 through 2014 there were 493 reported outbreaks of Cryptosporidiosis in public aquatic facilities, resulting in at least 27,219 illnesses and eight deaths. The report has generated countless, often sensational stories in news sources online, in print and on television.

The disturbing numbers are nothing new for aquatic professionals who have been fighting “Crypto” outbreaks for years. Taxonomically speaking Crypto is a member of the cyst family of microorganisms. This sometimes deadly pathogen is highly resistant to chlorine treatment and can spread rapidly once in a heavily used body of water. Crypto’s stubborn nature is arguably the main reason the CDC’s Model Aquatic Health Code recommends secondary sanitation with ozone and/or UV, both of which have been proven effective in preventing outbreaks.

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But as serious as Crypto is in recreational water, it’s an even bigger health issue on the world stage, particularly in the developing world. According to a recent report published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services titled Burden of Disease From Cyrptosporidiosis, “Cryptosporidium is an emerging pathogen that disproportionately affects children in developing countries and immunocompromised individuals. Disease incidence is also increasing in industrialized countries largely as a result of outbreaks in recreational water facilities.”
 
The data is chilling: Crypto now accounts for 525,000 annual deaths worldwide and is the second-leading cause of infectious diarrhea in children under 2. Countries such as Tanzania, Nigeria, India, Ethiopia and Iran have been among those hardest hit.  
 
Fortunately, efforts to stem the tide of infectious outbreaks have been gaining momentum. For example, last February, Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis formed an alliance with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance development of a drug the company is working on that could treat Cyrptosporidiosis. “There is an urgent medical need for new and effective therapeutics for Cyrptosporidiosis, particularly in vulnerable populations” said Dr. Paul Kelly of the University of Zambia School of Medicine and Tropical Gastroenterology.
 
The drug has been shown to effectively treat infections in preclinical models and is undergoing safety studies prior to clinical trials. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is reportedly providing $6.5 million to support the effort.
 
“We are committed to the fight against cryptosporidiosis and other infectious and neglected tropical diseases and are proud to work closely with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners in this effort,” said Thierry Diagana, head of the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases. “Today’s global health issues cannot be solved by one organization alone. Private companies, governments, non-governmental organizations, academia, and other stakeholders need to work together to create sustainable solutions.”