At a glance Cryptosporidium parvum does not appear to be a complex organism. However, don’t let its size fool you. There are many interesting ways in which this unicellular organism has adapted to its environment. These adaptations have allowed in to survive in our chemically treated water systems, infect our intestines, and its small size makes it hard to detect in a public water system! This page will describe these unique adaptations of Cryptosporidium parvum to the environments in which it lives. Sporozoite following cytoskeletal paralysis by Michael Riggs.
First, the adaptation of C.parvum small size allows it to move from fecal waste to our intestines. The adaptation of a 4-6 µm ( µm stands for micrometer) oocysts allows the organism to be environmentally stable in most commonly water and fecal water (Yakub and Stadterman-Knauer, 2004). Because of this small size, it is easily transmissible from contaminated water to a mammals digestive tract. C. parvum can then use the animal as a means of transport since C. parvum will leave the body through fecal waste. This fecal waste is most commonly found in cattle manure (Yakub and Stadterman-Knauer, 2004), The adaptation to a parasitic relationship doesn’t only provide C. parvum with movement from one environment to another, but also with the nutrients needed for survival. Parasitism is a beneficial adaptation of Cryptosporidium parvum.
Secondly, let’s talk about its adaptation to chemical environments. In one study on recreational water and Cryptosporidium parvum, it was found that free floating C. parvum oocysts are infectious in an average chlorine treated pool for one to two days after contamination. In addition, it was also found that if the oocysts were contained in fecal matter (diarrhea was used in this study) and then exposed to an average chlorine treated pool, they are infectious continually for 48 hours or longer (Carpenter, 1999). Lastly, it was found that only low dose of C. parvum are required for infection. These findings indicate that C. parvum has adapted to ionized water such as chlorine, which is commonly used to treat public pools. It also suggests that C.parvum is more infectious when it lives inside fecal matter. This adaptation is important to public health officials because it has become a problem in many public pools across the United States (Carpenter, 1999). Overall, the adaption of Cryptosporidium parvum to chlorine environments has allowed it to evolve into a very successful parasite, and an enemy to swimmers.
In conclusion, the adaptations of Cryptosporidium parvum have allowed it to become a successful pathogen to many mammals. These adaptations are of much concern to public health officials, and this organisms is continually beginning studied. Check out our Facts page to find out how it has impact our own state of Wisconsin!

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