Environmental temperature controls Cryptosporidium oocyst metabolic rate and associated retention of infectivity

Brendon J. King, Alexandra R. Keegan, Paul T. Monis, Christopher P. Saint

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73 Citations (Scopus)


Cryptosporidium is a significant cause of water-borne enteric disease throughout the world and represents a challenge to the water industry and a threat to public health. In this study we report the use of a cell culture-TaqMan PCR assay to measure oocyst inactivation rates in reagent-grade and environmental waters over a range of temperatures. While oocysts incubated at 4°C and 15°C remained infective over the 12-week holding period, we observed a 4 log10 reduction in infectivity for both 20 and 25°C incubation treatments at 12 and 8 weeks, respectively, for all water types examined, a faster rate of inactivation for oocysts than previously reported. This temperature-dependent inactivation was further investigated using a simple and rapid ATP assay described herein. Time course experiments performed in reagent-grade water at incubation temperatures of 4, 15, 20, 25, 30, and 37°C identified a close relationship between oocyst infectivity and oocyst ATP content, demonstrating that temperature inactivation at higher temperatures is a function of increased oocyst metabolic activity. While water quality did not affect oocyst inactivation, biological antagonism appears to be a key factor affecting oocyst removal from environmental waters. Both the cell culture-TaqMan PCR assay and the ATP assay provide a sensitive and quantitative method for the determination of environmental oocyst inactivation, providing an alternative to the more costly and time-consuming mouse infection assay. The findings presented here relating temperature to oocyst inactivation provide valuable information for determining the relative risks associated with Cryptosporidium oocysts in water.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3848-3857
Number of pages10
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes


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