Cryptosporidium is a coccidian parasite that is recognized as a strong enteric pathogen. This organism causes acute infection, even in people with normal immune systems. Cryptosporidium symptoms range from mild to severe diarrhea with a variety of complications.
The infection in people with comprised immune systems is much more severe and can be life-threatening. Passage of up to 12 liters per day of fluid has been reported.
Cryptosporidium infection can occur through several types of transmission. These include animal to human, water contamination, and person-to-person contact. Person-to-person contact may occur between members of the same household, day care centers, and homosexual men.
Cryptosporidum diagnosis was originally done by direct detection, using microscopic examination of stool samples using stains or fluorescent labeled antibodies as the most common procedures. This method relies on an experienced technician and observation of intact organisms. Historically, the method of microscopic examination has had poor proficiency in examinations. So more methods of diagnosis have been investigated.
One promising alternative has been the development of an ELISA (enzyme linked immunosorbent assay) test. ELISA tests are used with stool specimens. These tests have been compared to experienced microscopic observations in sensitivity, are fairly simple to perform, and do not require the observation of intact organisms.
Normal healthy individuals should be free of Cryptosporidium and should test negative. A positive reaction indicates that the patient has detectable amounts of the Cryptosporidium antigen. Certain populations, such as homosexual men and children in day care centers have shown higher rates of infection with Cryptosporidium that the rest of the population.
IVD Research is leading the race in Cryptosporidium diagnosis. Their Cryptosporidium ELISA test kits are FDA approved and are selling all over the world for lower prices than some of the larger corporations.
If a person does not want to boil water, a household water filtration system or drinking bottled water can reduce the risk of Cryptosporidium infection. Municipal water utilities provide good protection against water-borne Cryptosporidium infection. There were only six major documented U.S cases of Cryptosporidiosis outbreaks because of poor quality drinking water between 1984-1994, even though the 1993 outbreak in Milwaukee caused over 400,000 cases. Since this massive outbreak, much more research and diagnostic development has been done to eliminate the possibility of further outbreaks.
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