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J Clin Microbiol. 1990 Nov;28(11):2491-5.

Enzyme-linked immunoassay for detection of Cryptosporidium antigens in fecal specimens.

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Department of Preventive Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland 20814-4799.


Cryptosporidium sp. is a ubiquitous 4- to 6-micron protozoan parasite infecting the intestinal tract of humans. It causes mild to fulminant diarrhea in patients, especially immunocompromised persons, and it may be hard to detect by microscopic fecal examination. An indirect, double-antibody enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was developed using specifically produced goat and rabbit antisera to detect Cryptosporidium antigens in human feces. Of 62 frozen stools from patients with cryptosporidiosis, as detected by at least two microscopic diagnostic techniques, 51 were positive by ELISA; all ELISA-negative specimens came from patients with fewer than five oocysts per 0.01 ml of concentrated fecal sample examined after modified acid-fast or fluorescent monoclonal antibody staining. A total of 182 specimens from persons without Cryptosporidium infection were negative by ELISA in 176 instances; 3 ELISA-positive specimens came from patients with cryptosporidiosis diagnosed earlier. The sensitivity of the assay was 82.3%, and specificity was 96.7%. The predictive value of a positive ELISA was 89.5%, and the predictive value of a negative ELISA was 94.2%. The ELISA was not affected by the presence of eight other intestinal parasites but was sometimes affected by repeated freezing and thawing of fecal specimens. All fecal specimens were heated to 100 degrees C for 2 min to reduce proteolytic enzyme activity, although the necessity of this step needs further evaluation. This first-generation ELISA is a simple, rapid, easily standardized test for Cryptosporidium antigens in stool samples which will be useful for diagnosis and for large-scale epidemiologic studies.

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