Cryptosporidiosis is a leading cause of life-threatening diarrhea in young children in resource-poor settings. To explore microbial influences on susceptibility, we screened 85 microbiota-associated metabolites for their effects on Cryptosporidium parvum growth in vitro. We identify eight inhibitory metabolites in three main classes: secondary bile salts/acids, a vitamin B6 precursor, and indoles. Growth restriction of C. parvum by indoles does not depend on the host aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) pathway. Instead, treatment impairs host mitochondrial function and reduces total cellular ATP, as well as directly reducing the membrane potential in the parasite mitosome, a degenerate mitochondria. Oral administration of indoles, or reconstitution of the gut microbiota with indole-producing bacteria, delays life cycle progression of the parasite in vitro and reduces the severity of C. parvum infection in mice. Collectively, these findings indicate that microbiota metabolites impair mitochondrial function and contribute to colonization resistance to Cryptosporidium infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112680
JournalCell Reports
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 25 2023


  • CP: Microbiology
  • apicomplexan parasite
  • indole
  • membrane potential
  • metabolism
  • microbial metabolites
  • microbiota
  • mitochondria
  • mitosome
  • mucosal infection
  • parasitology


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