NCEZID Innovations: Waterborne Diseases

New Tracking System Helps Control Outbreaks


At swimming pools and water playgrounds across the country, Cryptosporidium (Crypto) can turn a day of fun into a nightmare for many people. This parasite is the leading cause of outbreaks of diarrheal illness (cryptosporidiosis) linked to recreational water spots, such as public pools. In fact, twice as many of these outbreaks were reported to CDC for 2016 compared with 2014.

Crypto is not easily killed by chlorine, and swallowing just a mouthful of contaminated water can make people sick for up to 3 weeks. As recently as the late 1990s, cryptosporidiosis incorrectly was thought to be caused by only one species of Crypto. Traditional tests cannot tell the difference among most Crypto species, making it difficult to track trends in illness, link cases, identify the source of outbreaks, and take appropriate steps to prevent further spread.


Molecular detection work revealed that what we formerly thought was a single species of Cryptosporidium is really a collection of at least 30 species, many with multiple subtypes. NCEZID scientists have developed CryptoNet Cdc-pdf[2 pages], the first USbased system that uses molecular detection methods to track a disease caused by parasites. Molecular detection methods distinguish crypto species and their subtypes and help experts understand how the parasite is spread. In 2016, CryptoNet was used to help investigate and solve outbreaks linked to swimming pools and water playgrounds in Alabama, Arizona, and Ohio. NCEZID scientists continue to develop advanced molecular detection methods to better distinguish Crypto subtypes and stop outbreaks.

Bottom Line Up Front:

NCEZID has launched a new system to better track Crypto, the leading cause of diarrheal outbreaks linked to pools and water playgrounds.