Berry, Berry, Quite Contrary...Cyclospora Outbreaks
Outbreaks of illness in the United States causing infectious watery diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting recently have been found to be caused by a parasite called Cyclospora. Food-borne outbreaks of the illness have been reported in the U.S. since the mid-1990s.
Cyclospora infection (cyclosporiasis) facts
- Cyclospora is a small parasitic organism. It is passed to humans when they ingest food contaminated with feces from an infected person.
- It is most common in tropical countries, and imported foods such as lettuce have caused outbreaks in the United States. Travelers to tropical or subtropical countries are at risk, although the risk is relatively low.
- Diarrhea is the most common symptom, often accompanied by cramping abdominal pain and fatigue. If left untreated, the diarrhea can last for several weeks.
- The recommended treatment is a seven- to ten-day course of oral trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra, Cotrim).
- Complications are uncommon, but it is important for patients to drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Prevention efforts are focused on improving the safety of the food supply. Cyclospora requires a period of time outside the body to become infectious. The organism is not spread directly from person to person.
What is a Cyclospora infection?
Cyclospora infection is a diarrheal illness that occurs when humans accidentally ingest the Cyclospora parasite. This happens by eating or drinking items contaminated with soil or water.
What causes a Cyclospora infection?
Cyclospora cayetanensis is a parasite that cycles between the environment (soil) and humans during its life cycle. It survives for long periods of time in nature as an oocyst. The oocyst can resist extreme temperatures and the usual levels of chlorine in treated water. When temperatures warm, the oocyst matures and produces the infectious form, called sporozoites. When sporozoites are ingested by a human, they multiply in the gut and form new oocysts. These are excreted in feces, starting the cycle all over again.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/23/2016