An immunomagnetic separation-real-time PCR method for quantification of Cryptosporidium parvum in water samples

J Microbiol Methods. 2003 Jul;54(1):29-36. doi: 10.1016/s0167-7012(03)00005-8.


The protozoan parasite Cryptosporidium parvum is known to occur widely in both raw and drinking water and is the cause of waterborne outbreaks of gastroenteritis throughout the world. The routinely used method for the detection of Cryptosporidium oocysts in water is based on an immunofluorescence assay (IFA). It is both time-consuming and nonspecific for the human pathogenic species C. parvum. We have developed a TaqMan polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that accurately quantifies C. parvum oocysts in treated and untreated water samples. The protocol consisted of the following successive steps: Envirochek capsule filtration, immunomagnetic separation (IMS), thermal lysis followed by DNA purification using Nanosep centrifugal devices and, finally, real-time PCR using fluorescent TaqMan technology. Quantification was accomplished by comparing the fluorescence signals obtained from test samples with those from standard dilutions of C. parvum oocysts. This IMS-real-time PCR assay permits rapid and reliable quantification over six orders of magnitude, with a detection limit of five oocysts for purified oocyst solutions and eight oocysts for spiked water samples. Replicate samples of spiked tap water and Seine River water samples (with approximately 78 and 775 oocysts) were tested. C. parvum oocyst recoveries, which ranged from 47.4% to 99% and from 39.1% to 68.3%, respectively, were significantly higher and less variable than those reported using the traditional US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) method 1622. This new molecular method offers a rapid, sensitive and specific alternative for C. parvum oocyst quantification in water.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cryptosporidium parvum / genetics
  • Cryptosporidium parvum / growth & development
  • Cryptosporidium parvum / isolation & purification*
  • DNA, Protozoan / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Fresh Water / parasitology*
  • Humans
  • Immunomagnetic Separation / methods*
  • Oocysts / isolation & purification*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Taq Polymerase / metabolism
  • Water Pollution
  • Water Supply*


  • DNA, Protozoan
  • Taq Polymerase