Cryptosporidium and Cryptosporidiosis – What is it and How is it Filtered?
In a word, they are “Crypto.” The former is a parasite whereas the latter is the resulting disease. Yes, they are both commonly known by their abbreviated names, “Crypto.” Cryptosporidium, the microscopic, protozoan, land- and water-born parasite causes the gastrointestinal disease, cryptosporidiosis.
There are a large variety of sub-species harmful to humans. The health effects, usually of a short duration, generally manifest as intestinal discomfort and diarrhea. Children, the aged and those with compromised immune systems are at higher risk of prolonged illness with more in depth complications.
The crypto life cycle
To prevent a chicken and egg argument, we'll assume crypto begins as a cyst. The cyst lays dormant while outside a host-organism. They can be found in many different water sources: lakes, rivers and streams; wells, both public and private; and even chemically treated municipal water systems. (Yes, there are chlorine-resistant strains of crypto.)
When one swims or bathes in or drinks crypto-infected water, the parasite is ingested and finds its way into the small intestines. There it festers and multiplies causing the diarrheal discomfort most commonly associated with the disease. It eventually passes, as a cyst, from the body in fecal matter and starts its life cycle anew.
Who's At Risk?
Just about everyone: people who swim in crypto-infected water such as rivers and lakes (and even swimming pools); child care workers; caretakers of infected individuals; international travelers; hikers and campers who drink contaminated water.
Crypto transmission is very benign. The same cysts excreted from animals can affect humans if ingested. So, water run off from something as picturesque as a cow pasture in the serene country side can get into drinking water sources and infect humans, the suspected culprit in the largest outbreak in US history, where 104 people died.
Can Crypto Be Removed From My Drinking Water?
Yes. Municipal water systems rely principally on chlorine to disinfect the publics' drinking water, but the protective outer shell of the crypto parasite in the cyst form can make it tolerant to these chemical treatment methods.
If you are concerned that you might have crypto present in your drinking water, it is recommended that a whole house (or point of entry) water filtration system be used. But typical particulate filtration (greater than 5 microns) will not remove ALL of the crypto. For your family's safety, you should use 1 micron Absolute (as opposed to 1 micron Nominal) or any sub-micron (.35mic.) particulate filtration. Also, ultra-violet (UV) light (when used in conjunction with a .5 micron carbon block filter) and reverse osmosis (RO) will kill or remove Crypto. UV water purification can be applied to the water for an entire home, or be placed at a particular point of use, such as a drinking water faucet in the kitchen. RO systems typically are placed only at the point of use (i.e. under your kitchen sink).