Development and application of a quantitative, specific assay for Cryptosporidium parvum oocyst detection in high-turbidity environmental water samples.

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  • 1 Division of Parasitic Diseases, National Center for Infectious Disease, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30341, USA.

Chlorine-resistant Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts in drinking water play an important role in the epidemiology of cryptosporidiosis. Current methods of detecting these organisms in water are insensitive, labor-intensive, highly subjective, and severely limited by sample turbidity. We describe here an alternative technique utilizing electrochemiluminescence (ECL) technology for detecting C. parvum oocysts in environmental water samples. This method is quantitative, reproducible, and requires only minimal sample processing. Currently, the ECL assay can detect as few as one oocyst in one milliliter of concentrated test sample with sample turbidity of up to 10,000 nephelometric turbidity units. Water and sewer samples collected during a cryptosporidiosis outbreak were tested by ECL assay. Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts were found in the source water at the time of outbreak, and a sharply decreasing level of oocysts in sewer samples was observed over a three-month period following the outbreak.