The detection of Cryptosporidium oocysts in drinking water is critically dependent on the quality of immunofluorescent reagents. Experiments were performed to develop a method for producing highly specific antibodies to Cryptosporidium oocysts that can be used for water testing. BALB/c mice were immunized with six different antigen preparations and monitored for immunoglobulin G (IgG) and IgM responses to the surface of Cryptosporidium oocysts. One group of mice received purified oocyst walls, a second group received a soluble protein preparation extracted from the outside of the oocyst wall, and the third group received whole inactivated oocysts. Three additional groups were immunized with sequentially prepared oocyst extracts to provide for a comparison of the immune response. Mice injected with the soluble protein extract demonstrated an IgG response to oocysts surface that was not seen in the whole-oocyst group. Mice injected with whole oocysts showed an IgM response only, while mice injected with purified oocyst walls showed little increase in IgM or IgG levels. Of the additional reported preparations only one, BME (2-mercaptoethanol treated), produced a weak IgM response to the oocyst wall. A mouse from the soluble oocyst extract group yielding a high IgG response was utilized to produce a highly specific IgG(1) monoclonal antibody (Cry104) specific to the oocyst surface. Comparative flow cytometric analysis indicated that Cry104 has a higher avidity and specificity to oocysts in water concentrates than other commercially available antibodies.