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      Epidemiology of Cryptosporidium: transmission, detection and identification.

      International Journal for Parasitology

      Animals, Cryptosporidiosis, diagnosis, transmission, Cryptosporidium, classification, genetics, isolation & purification, Genotype, Humans, Zoonoses

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          Abstract

          There are 10 valid species of Cryptosporidium and perhaps other cryptic species hidden under the umbrella of Cryptosporidium parvum. The oocyst stage is of primary importance for the dispersal, survival, and infectivity of the parasite and is of major importance for detection and identification. Because most oocysts measure 4-6 microm, appear nearly spherical, and have obscure internal structures, there are few or no morphometric features to differentiate species and in vitro cultivation does not provide differential data as for bacteria. Consequently, we rely on a combination of data from three tools: morphometrics, molecular techniques, and host specificity. Of 152 species of mammals reported to be infected with C. parvum or an indistinguishable organism, very few oocysts have ever been examined using more than one of these tools. This paper reviews the valid species of Cryptosporidium, their hosts and morphometrics; the reported hosts for the human pathogen, C. parvum; the mechanisms of transmission; the drinking water, recreational water, and food-borne outbreaks resulting from infection with C. parvum; and the microscopic, immunological, and molecular methods used to detect and identify species and genotypes.

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          The infectivity of Cryptosporidium parvum in healthy volunteers.

          Small numbers of Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts can contaminate even treated drinking water, and ingestion of oocysts can cause diarrheal disease in normal as well as immunocompromised hosts. Since the number of organisms necessary to cause infection in humans is unknown, we performed a study to determine the infective dose of the parasite in healthy adults. After providing informed consent, 29 healthy volunteers without evidence of previous C. parvum infection, as determined by the absence of anti-cryptosporidium-specific antibodies, were given a single dose of 30 to 1 million C. parvum oocysts obtained from a calf. They were then monitored for oocyst excretion and clinical illness for eight weeks. Household contacts were monitored for secondary spread. Of the 16 subjects who received an intended dose of 300 or more oocysts, 14 (88 percent) became infected. After a dose of 30 oocysts, one of five subjects (20 percent) became infected, whereas at a dose of 1000 or more oocysts, seven of seven became infected. The median infective dose, calculated by linear regression, was 132 oocysts. Of the 18 subjects who excreted oocysts after the challenge dose, 11 had enteric symptoms and 7 (39 percent) had clinical cryptosporidiosis, consisting of diarrhea plus at least one other enteric symptom. All recovered, and there were no secondary cases of diarrhea among household contacts. In healthy adults with no serologic evidence of past infection with C. parvum, a low dose of C. parvum oocysts is sufficient to cause infection.
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            Cryptosporidium and cryptosporidiosis in man and animals.

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              Large community outbreak of cryptosporidiosis due to contamination of a filtered public water supply.

              Between January 12 and February 7, 1987, an outbreak of gastroenteritis affected an estimated 13,000 people in a county of 64,900 residents in western Georgia. Cryptosporidium oocysts were identified in the stools of 58 of 147 patients with gastroenteritis (39 percent) tested during the outbreak. Studies for bacterial, viral, and other parasitic pathogens failed to implicate any other agent. In a random telephone survey, 299 of 489 household members exposed to the public water supply (61 percent) reported gastrointestinal illness, as compared with 64 of 322 (20 percent) who were not exposed (relative risk, 3.1; 95 percent confidence interval, 2.4 to 3.9). The prevalence of IgG to cryptosporidium was significantly higher among exposed respondents to the survey who had become ill than among nonresident controls. Cryptosporidium oocysts were identified in samples of treated public water with use of a monoclonal-antibody test. Although the sand-filtered and chlorinated water system met all regulatory-agency quality standards, sub-optimal flocculation and filtration probably allowed the parasite to pass into the drinking-water supply. Low-level cryptosporidium infection in cattle in the watershed and a sewage overflow were considered as possible contributors to the contamination of the surface-water supply. We conclude that current standards for the treatment of public water supplies may not prevent the contamination of drinking water by cryptosporidium, with consequent outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis.
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