Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fighting Water Parasites

What’s up with water anyways?

Life Cycle of Cryptosporidiosis
 The CDC reported an outbreak of Cryptosporidiosis in Sweden in 2010. The disease is caused by a parasite known as Cryptosporidium hominis, and, like most of the other water born parasites, causes chronic intestinal disease. The diseases caused by these parasites are characterized mainly by diarrhea, but can be accompanied by other symptoms including stomach pains (1). Water borne parasites that cause intestinal diseases are usually transmitted through the fecal oral route. The parasites have two forms: cysts and trophozoites, with the cysts being the infectious particles located in the fecal matter. The outbreak in Sweden can be traced back to fecal contamination, which was determined by tests that yielded abnormally high levels of E. Coli in the raw water supply (1). The usual microbial barriers of ozonation, a process that destroys microorganism through the infusion of ozone (6), and chlormination, a process in which ammonia is added to drinking water that already has chlorine added to disinfect (7), both proved infective in this case due to the resistance of the cysts (5). The Swedish added UV water disinfecting systems to help clean the water and prevent another outbreak in the future. It seems that in industrial nations it is more practical to try and prevent the limited contamination that could occur but the costs to install systems to monitor for the cysts seems impractical (1).

 Avoiding Parasites in First World Areas 

Don't Do It! 

 There are a few simple tips provided by the CDC to help prevent the prevalence parasites as well as to prevent infection. The first is do not use water that you are swimming in as a restroom because most of the water borne parasites can be transmitted in this manner. Next, do not swallow or ingest the water that you are swimming in, just in case someone could not quite make it to the restroom. The final tip is to use nose plugs when entering water that might be contaminated just to help further prevent infection (2).

Third World Problems

Children getting water 
 While such contaminations can occur in industrialized nations that have access to clean water most of the time it is the nations that do not have clean water that have a higher prevalence of infection by these parasites. This becomes especially hazardous for children, elderly, and other immune compromised individuals, who suffer from dehydration and even death caused by diarrhea. With out proper plumbing and water treatment facilities it is extremely difficult to reduce the fecal-oral contamination that promotes the spread of these diseases. Efforts are being made to find ways to inexpensively purify the water in these nations. Two ways that have been uniformly promoted are the use of Aquatabs, or the use filters to help rid the water of the disease causing cysts, not just for the residence of theses nations but also for those who visit them (3). Aquatabs are water purification tablets, which have specific tablet requirements based on the volume of water to ensure that the water is clean. The tablets work by using the ingredient Dichloroisocyanurate, and recommend that you mix thoroughly and then wait thirty minutes before drinking the water. Also, they advise that the water be filtered first if the water is opaque or cloudy (4).


As we all know UNICEF is an organization that works in several ways to aid nations in need. One of their latest initiatives is to try and provide clean drinking water to children that are in need, as children are extremely susceptible to water borne parasites (11). Not to mention the consequences of them getting sick put them behind in school and the problems seem to cascade from there. The new initiative is called TAP. Essentially TAP is a challenge to those of us who are fortunate enough to have cell phones to restrain from using them for the betterment of children in need. For every 10 minutes a person goes with out using his/her phone a day of drinking water is provided for a child  in need. To take the challenge just access UNICEFTAPPROJECT.ORG from your cell phone and stay off of it (11)!Please enjoy the videos that show some of the other efforts that UNICEEF has made to provide clean drinking water for nations that have the highest incidence on intestinal disease. 


While theses intestinal parasites and the diseases they cause may not seem like that big of a deal the truth is they are. Diarrhea is still one of the leading causes of death in the world and can keep children that desperately need an education out of school for weeks. Even if you don’t care about the children or people in other places you are not as safe as you think. Many of these parasitic cysts are resistant the chemicals currently used in water treatment plants, and are not filtered out by the filters used, which mean an outbreak could happen in your town or city. The more we work to help decrease the incidence of these diseases around the world the safer everyone else will be. All it takes is one fecal-oral contamination to start an outbreak.

11. 12.


  1. Water is a necessary part of our life and diet. Our bodies are made up of so much water that we need it to survive. Without water, we die in a matter of days.This makes obtaining clean water such an issue in developing countries. Parasites that live in water are easy to treat with a filtration system or purifying tablets. It is sad to think how many lives are lost each year to water-borne parasites when they can be easily treatable. When I was in Belize over spring break we were not allowed to drink any of the tap water. This is difficult to do when you are so used to using everyday of your life. It is hard to imagine living in fear of your own tap water, and knowing that has the capability of making you very sick or even killing you.

  2. With any water borne disease, I believe that public education is key in combating the disease. Much like how you mentioned in the "1st world Areas" that people should avoid using the bathroom where they swim, more information on how to specific parasite, whether it be Crypto or not, should be given to individuals in infected areas. This would be a great prevention strategy especially in 3rd countries where it is far too expensive to afford drugs that either kill the parasite or help you ease your pain that comes with the disease. Public education is a cheap prevention strategy that can not only help reduce cost of fighting these water-borne diseases but also reduce the overall infection rates of these parasites.

  3. Maintaining a clean water supply is key for survival, and a parasitic free life. Without a clean water supply in highly populated areas, the infection rate will be very high because parasites can thrive. Educating people about parasites and different ways to prevent and kill them is very important. Boiling water, keeping fecal matter, and urine away from the main water source are all very good ways to limit the outbreak of parasites. Wearing goggles, and ear plugs are also a very good way to prevent the transmission of parasites. With all of the educational facts, and the companies and corporations, that are pitching in to eradicate parasites, the number of infections should drastically decrease. A good website to check out on waterborne illnesses is:

  4. This was a very informative post that is important in my life. Having clean water is something most people take for granted because it is easily accessible in most areas of the United States. My family is from Liberia and as a child my mother would tell me stories about how she would have to walk miles to get water and carry it back on her head daily. They also were at risk for parasites in the water so they would boil their water before they used it. Because having clean water is something that can be easily taken care of I have been interested in joining organizations such as The Big Pipe Project. They discuss the issues people face who have to walk long distances in order to get water. They have created water systems to bring water closer to the communities. (You can view the video here: With the help of this organizations and many others similar to it, I can hope that one day clean water can be available for everyone in the world.

  5. Water parasites are a frightening thing. When I went to Tanzania a few summers ago, in a couple of the areas we visited, like Jenna said, we were not allowed to drink water straight from the taps either. In one town, we saw people actually drinking water straight from the bodies of stagnant unclear water. The people I went with tried to tell the people in the village not to drink that water, but they said that it was all they had and they were used to it. Getting clean water to everyone is a major problem in the world today. If everyone could have access to clean water, the prevalence of water borne illnesses could greatly decrease. We get clean water and use so much of it that we do not realize how important water actually is to our daily lives.

  6. One interesting fact about this disease is that it was first actually noted in turkeys in 1955. It amazes me how it was the disease for turkeys to now affecting human that drink contaminated water. Actually, it wasn’t until 1976 when the first human case was reported – natural selection maybe?
    Another interesting fact about Cryptosporidiosis is that there has been more reported cases of this disease in patients who have HIV. 10%-15% of American actually develops Cryptosporidiosis while being affected with HIV. It was also reported that homosexual have a higher prevalence than drug abusers.
    Lifestraws are one of the ways that provides clean water by filtering out the contaminated water. I think it is an awesome tool that would be given to those who seriously need it. It is a great way to prevent waterborne diseases from infecting people.

  7. Having clean water is very important and also easily taken advantage by many people whom easily have access to it. Many of us fail to realize how difficult it is to obtain clean water in 3rd world areas. In fact, taking a short shower in America uses more clean water than a person in a third world country uses in a day. This, unfortunately, becomes a big problem for those in third world countries because they have to take additional steps to just get clean water. Although it is unfortunate, the cheapest way would be to educate everyone, especially children, on the affects of contaminated water. By doing so, this would ensure that the contaminated water is used as a bathroom if swimming in it, ingesting it, or using nose plugs.

  8. While I was reading your post I immediately thought about a global health project that we did on the 1854 Cholera epidemic in London. The outbreak spread from the feces of just one infected person (they were shoveled into a cesspool, and the cholera virus then contaminated the water supply). What is so interesting about it is that at the time, London was a place where wealthy people lived, not the "third world" that we think of today when we talk about water contamination. It is not a secret that diseases spread easily in cities because people are so tightly packed together that the pathogen can jump from one person to another (and with the encounter filter so high, the parasite can maximize virulence). However in many third world countries, people are not always living in congested areas, so stopping the spread of infectious disease should not be as big of a problem, right?

  9. I agree with everyone. Drinking clean water is a privilege that we all take advantage of without even realizing. However, there are other activities in first world countries besides swimming in which one must be cautious of the water he or she is ingesting. Going camping or hiking can prove to be dangerous if the traveler does not do the proper research on drinking water treatment methods. The most effective method of killing water-borne pathogens such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia lamblia, and other bacteria and viruses is to complete a rolling boil for at least 1 minute. For other methods of removal of pathogens if you're going camping, check out this website:

  10. I love that you mentioned the TAP project with this post. I have participated in it and it is much easier than many think to use while you're studying. So, if you have never tried it folks, give it a shot! One thing I began to think about while reading this is drinking from a hosepipe and whether that could have any negative outcomes in reference to parasites. Growing up in the South I remember many days where we would drink from the hosepipe instead of running inside to get filtered water. Given, I could not find any definitive research online to suggest any negative outcomes, however I still questioned it. I appreciate the link Washida included. My friends and I camp many times over the summer and we often see people who do not bring their own water with them as we do. It is important to make people aware of how to diminish the parasites and how to stay away from them.

  11. Cool topic. I have to agree that water-borne illness is a problem that could strike anywhere. I feel that as time continues, more and more people will become susceptible to water-borne illness as the adaptations that we may have had acquired are now not selected for with all the advancements in sanitation. So as we continue to make sure we don't fall ill to water-borne illness, we have to continuously work harder to make sure that the water we drink remains sanitary. It kind of a red-queen sort of thing. Without out selective pressures, we are losing the genetic adaptations and relying more and more on technological advancements.

  12. Admittedly, when I read the title I was expecting guinea worm. Our class has conditioned me to think of it when it comes to water borne illness. It was pleasant to see some new information. The area that interested me most involved the treatment of Cryptosporidiosis. The idea of infusing ozone in the water to kill the bacteria is pretty genius. It lead to me research how one would actually manufacture ozone. There I found that ozone is used in a plethora of ways including: deodorizing air, washing fruit of bacteria and an insecticide in stored grain.
    I would also like to highlight Brittany's comment regarding TAP. I also utilize it and think it's a great means to help those less fortunate obtain clean water.

  13. As mentioned in previous comments, I also expected a report on guinea worm out of using it for the "go-to" water-borne parasite. It was refreshing that you didn't. It was also refreshing that, while reading this, I thought of the guinea worm and how it is soon to be eradicated. That gave me hope, as I was reading this, that soon other water-borne parasites would be eliminated also. Jimmy Carter needs something to do after eliminating GWD. And thanks for mentioning TAPs. I looked into it and it's a really good initiative, especially for financially challenged individuals, such as college students, who can't afford to donate money.

  14. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on this topic. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him. So I should thank you for the free lunch I got.

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