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Vet Parasitol. 2004 Dec 9;126(1-2):37-56.

Cryptosporidium: a water-borne zoonotic parasite.

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United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA.


Of 155 species of mammals reported to be infected with Cryptosporidium parvum or C. parvum-like organisms most animals are found in the Orders Artiodactyla, Primates, and Rodentia. Because Cryptosporidium from most of these animals have been identified by oocyst morphology alone with little or no host specificity and/or molecular data to support identification it is not known how many of the reported isolates are actually C. parvum or other species. Cryptosporidiosis is a cause of morbidity and mortality in animals and humans, resulting primarily in diarrhea, and resulting in the most severe infections in immune-compromised individuals. Of 15 named species of Cryptosporidium infectious for nonhuman vertebrate hosts C. baileyi, C. canis, C. felis, C. hominis, C. meleagridis, C. muris, and C. parvum have been reported to also infect humans. Humans are the primary hosts for C. hominis, and except for C. parvum, which is widespread amongst nonhuman hosts and is the most frequently reported zoonotic species, the remaining species have been reported primarily in immunocompromised humans. The oocyst stage can remain infective under cool, moist conditions for many months, especially where water temperatures in rivers, lakes, and ponds remain low but above freezing. Surveys of surface water, groundwater, estuaries, and seawater have dispelled the assumption that Cryptosporidium oocysts are present infrequently and in geographically isolated locations. Numerous reports of outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis related to drinking water in North America, the UK, and Japan, where detection methods are in place, indicate that water is a major vehicle for transmission of cryptosporidiosis.

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