Pathogens and Disease best Student Talk runner-up: Ross Bacchetti

We send our congratulations to Ross Bacchetti, who is the runner-up of the best Student Talk at ToxoUK. The award is sponsored by our journal Pathogens and Disease.

ToxoUK took place on the 14th of December 2021 in Cambridge, UK. Ross’ winning talk was titled “Cracking the Cryptosporidium Oocyst Wall Proteins (COWPs)”.

Read our interview with Ross about his research below:


What is your current position, and what was your scientific journey to get there?

I’m a final year PhD student in the Pawlowic lab at the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research, located within the University of Dundee, Scotland. Our lab researches the diarrhoeal parasite Cryptosporidium, which is a major cause of diarrhoeal related deaths in children worldwide. Currently no vaccine exists to combat cryptosporidiosis, and there is a lack of efficacious drug therapies to treat those who suffer most from this disease, the immunocompromised and young children. Before starting my PhD, I obtained an MSci degree in Veterinary Biosciences from the University of Glasgow. It was during my MSci when I was first introduced to Cryptosporidium, where I learned of all the challenges the field faces when working with this parasite, and as a result, how little is known about basic Cryptosporidium biology. Knowing this, I wanted to help answer some of these fundamental biological questions about this parasite, which ultimately lead me to studying my PhD.”


Could you describe the research your presentation covered?

The talk I delivered at ToxoUK 2021 focussed on my most recent work on the Cryptosporidium Oocyst Wall Proteins (COWPs). This family of proteins are hypothesised important components of Cryptosporidium’s environmentally resilient oocyst; an “egg-like” structure produced by parasites, which protects them during water and food borne transmission. Like many Cryptosporidium proteins, not much is known about the COWPs due to a lack of molecular tools available to study this parasite. However, recent advances have made it possible to genetically manipulate Cryptosporidium using CRISPR/Cas9, allowing us to characterise never-before-studied proteins. Here I showed how I took a genetic approach to generate fluorescent COWP-reporter strains to help understand protein localisation and expression. I was also able to use CRISPR/Cas9 to generate a COWP knock-out strain, which I am currently working on characterising.”


What do you hope to focus your research on in the future?

There’s still a lot to understand about Cryptosporidium, therefore I’m really looking forward to uncovering more of the biology of this vastly understudied parasite. I hope to continue researching the COWPs to gain an even better understanding on their potential role in oocyst formation and parasite transmission.”


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