Main content area

Spinacia oleracea L. Leaf Stomata Harboring Cryptosporidium parvum Oocysts: a Potential Threat to Food Safety

Macarisin, Dumitru, Bauchan, Gary, Fayer, Ronald
Applied and environmental microbiology 2010 v.76 no.2 pp. 555-559
parasites, fresh produce, prioritization, Cryptosporidium parvum, spinach, monoclonal antibodies, mesophyll, stomatal movement, water pollution, oocysts, humans, livestock, drinking water, food safety, etiology, confocal laser scanning microscopy, Spinacia oleracea, aquatic environment, foodborne illness, cryptosporidiosis, disinfection, stomata
Cryptosporidium parvum is a cosmopolitan microscopic protozoan parasite that causes severe diarrheal disease (cryptosporidiosis) in mammals, including humans and livestock. There is growing evidence of Cryptosporidium persistence in fresh produce that may result in food-borne infection, including sporadic cases as well as outbreaks. However, drinking and recreational waters are still considered the major sources of Cryptosporidium infection in humans, which has resulted in prioritization of studies of parasite etiology in aquatic environments, while the mechanisms of transmission and parasite persistence on edible plants remain poorly understood. Using laser scanning confocal microscopy together with fluorescein-labeled monoclonal antibodies, C. parvum oocysts were found to strongly adhere to spinach plants after contact with contaminated water, to infiltrate through the stomatal openings in spinach leaves, and to persist at the mesophyll level. These findings and the fact that this pathogenic parasite resists washing and disinfection raise concerns regarding food safety.