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Monday, September 06, 2004

# 26 Crypto What ?

Cryptosporidium is a protozoan that causes the disease
known as Cryptosporidiosis, a type of diarrhea that plagues
both humans and animals. Cryptosporidium has long been
recognized as a cause of intestinal disease in cattle and sheep,
but not in humans until 1976, and has been found in over
85% of the water supplies in the US since then. The species,
Cryptosporidium parvum, is the cause of many outbreaks in
the water supply of affluent nations, and only has been
considered a health risk since 1993, when Milwaukee,
Wisconsin, had numerous cases of diarrhea traced to
contamination in the city's water supply.
The microorganism is about 1/16th the size of a dust particle
that floats in the air. It takes only ten organisms to cause an
infection; and each generation can develop and mature in as
little as twelve to fourteen hours. Huge numbers can colonize
in the intestinal tract in just a few days. Therefore, it takes
special filtering to remove them from the drinking supply
since they are not killed by routine chlorination of water.
However, boiling can kill them. Boiling water for one minute
will kill most water-born pathogens, including hepatitis A.
In an altitude of more than 6,500 feet, the water should be
boiled for at least three minutes. Within the intestinal cells,
the parasite goes through all the stages of its life cycle,
producing worms, called oocysts, which pass out of the
body in the feces. Oocysts can survive outside the body
for long periods of time, eventually finding their way back
into drinking water and food.
Cryptosporidium muris is also transmitted via
contaminated water supplies from farm animal waste.
As with other Cryptosporidium species, it is most often
found in day-care centers, where infection is directly
related to improper washing after diaper changes.
In healthy patients, infection is usually mild and of a
short duration, but in the immunocompromised,
illness can be more acute and severe.
Symptoms include the following: abdominal discomfort,
weight loss, fever, and nausea causing severe dehydration
and electrolyte imbalances.

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