Cyclospora cayetanensis monitoring in agricultural water
The parasite Cyclospora Cayetanensis is producing illness in people consuming infected produce. Because this pathogen is in very low concentrations on actual produce, which makes it close to impossible to detect, and for prevention reasons, it is more effective to check for its presence in irrigation water, from where it is typically transferred on produce. However, even in water, this parasite is very difficult to detect. It only can be detected by lengthy molecular laboratory procedures such as PCR. One major problem for scientists to develop better and faster detection methods is the fact that there is no antibody or other recognition molecule that would be able to bind to the surface of this intact parasite.
We propose to design and synthesize, for the first time, aptamers, molecules that will be able to bind to intact Cyclospora Cayetanensis oocysts, and use them to design simple paper based colorimetric tests that can detect it in the field without the need of sample preparation or specialized laboratories. The paper based test will turn from pink to purple to indicate the water sample being tested is positive for this parasite, making this a very simple and easy to use detection method for Cyclospora Cayetanensis.
AFECCT: Assessing filtration efficacy for Cyclospora control
The reputation of growers and the health of consumers suffer when people contract foodborne illness from fresh produce contaminated with Cyclospora cayetanensis. Because filtration has been established as effective in concentrating parasites for environmental surveillance, we propose to establish how effectively filters remove such parasites from irrigation water. To achieve this, we will first conduct a series of filtration experiments using abundant parasites (of chickens) that pose no risk to the study team. We’ll then assess how well these filters reduce water contamination with Cyclospora. We will also determine whether any parasites surviving filtration are harmed in the process. We hope these findings will directly benefit growers seeking tools to mitigate risk, and hasten future research progress by validating a needed surrogate system for studying other interventions against this dangerous and enigmatic human parasite.