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Int J Parasitol. 1999 May;29(5):711-5.

Long-term survival of Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts in seawater and in experimentally infected mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis).

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Laboratory of Parasitology, Istituto Superiore di Sanita, Rome, Italy.


Transmission of infectious oocysts of Cryptosporidium parvum via surface- and drinking-water supplies has been reported and many surface waters flow into the sea, potentially causing runoff of animal-infected faeces. Eating raw mussels is a common practice in many countries, increasing the public's risk of acquiring enteric pathogens. The aims of the present study were to estimate how long C. parvum oocysts remain infectious in artificial seawater, to determine if the oocysts are retained in mussel tissues (Mytilus galloprovincialis), and how long they maintain their infectivity. Oocysts were incubated in artificial seawater at 6-8 degrees C under moderate oxygenation and the infectivity of oocysts was tested five times, over a 12 month period after incubation in seawater, in BALB/c mice. Each pup was inoculated per os with 10(5) oocysts and killed 5 days p.i. Oocysts remained infectious for 1 year. Forty mussels held in an aquarium containing artificial seawater filtered out more than 4 x 10(8) oocysts in a 24 h period. Oocysts were detected in the gill washing up to 3 days p.i., in the haemolymph up to 7 days p.i., and in the intestinal tract up to 14 days p.i. Oocysts collected from the gut of mussels 7 and 14 days p.i. were observed to have infected mice. These results suggest that C. parvum oocysts can survive in seawater for at least 1 year and can be filtered out by benthic mussels, retaining their infectivity up to 14 days, so seawater and molluscs are a potential source of C. parvum infection for humans.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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