B Lugonja1; A Paziewska-Harris1; C Williams2; J Cable1;
1 Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, UK; 2 Cardiff University, School of Engineering, UK
DiscussionCryptosporidium, cause of the gastrointestinal illness cryptosporidiosis, is a waterborne, apicomplexan parasite of global importance. Claiming hundreds of thousands of lives annually, it is the second most important pathogen responsible for deaths due to diarrhoea. It is a particularly devastating disease for children under 5 years old and those with impaired immune systems. With anti-rotavirus vaccinations implemented recently, Cryptosporidium is predicted to become the leading cause of death due to diarrhoea globally. As a waterborne parasite, Cryptosporidium can cause mass outbreaks, is a danger to not only human but also animal health and may significantly impact the economies of affected communities. The Cryptosporidium oocyst is highly infectious, with just one oocyst capable of causing disease. Due to the robust nature of the oocyst wall ultrastructure, chlorine treatment is largely ineffective and currently UV is the gold standard for water treatment. However, due to expense it is not present in all water treatment plants; particularly in developing countries. This, coupled with a lack of therapeutics, puts transmission prevention at the centre of Cryptosporidium research, however the challenge remains as to how to prevent transmission by efficiently removing the parasite from our water systems. Novel microwave technology may provide an effective solution. Our interdisciplinary project, in collaboration with Cardiff University’s Centre for High Frequency Engineering and Water Research Institute, is assessing the effect of cutting edge patented microwave technologies on the viability and infectivity of Cryptosporidium parasites present in water. In addition, we are investigating whether exposure of Cryptosporidium to microwave frequencies in conjunction with UV may improve current treatment systems. The ultimate aim of our work is to enable the development of a novel water treatment system that can be adaptable for use in industrial, commercial and domestic settings to prevent Cryptosporidium transmission.