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Cryptosporidium spp. Information

Cryptosporidium spp. are protozoan parasites that have been identified as a causative agents of human cryptosporidiosis. This organism, in the final stage of its life cycle, produces environmentally resistant structures known as oocysts that are 3-7um in size, and these are capable of transmitting infection.  Oocysts are present in most surface waters and are resistant to conventional chlorine disinfection; therefore, maintenance of an efficient water plant filtration system is critical for oocyst removal. Outbreaks of human cryptosporidiosis have been documented since the mid-1980s including the now famous Milwaukee outbreak of 1993 that infected circa 400,000 individuals.  Abdominal pain, nausea, fever, and fatigue often accompany infection by Cryptosporidium; however, not every infected individual will manifest symptoms. Cryptosporidiosis may become life-threatening for immuno-compromised or immuno-suppressed individuals. 

Detection of oocysts in water samples is accomplished by reacting immunofluorescent antibodies with specific biochemical markers on the surface of the oocysts. Oocysts successfully labeled with these fluorescent tags can then be visualized using IFA microscopy. After detecting a putative oocyst with immunofluorescent antibodies, DAPI (a nuclear stain) and DIC microscopy features aid in the confirmation/invalidation process.





Depicted in the photo are two sporozoites excysting from the oocyst.


AWWARF (American Water Works Association, Research Foundation). Cryptosporidium: Answers to Questions Commonly Asked by Drinking Water Professionals. 1997. Frey M., C. Hancock, G. S. Logsdon. Denver.

Fayer R.,ed, Cryptosporidium and Cryptosporidiosis. 1997.CRC Press LLC. Boca Raton, FL.

AWWA (American Water Works Association). Waterborne Pathogens. Manual of Water Supply Practices, M48, First Edition. 1999. Denver.

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Last modified: June 11, 2007