Summary of Awards to Date

Cyclospora: Potential Reservoirs and Occurrence in Irrigation Waters

Date

Jan. 1, 2017 - Dec. 31, 2018

Award Number

2017-153F

Funding Agency

Center for Produce Safety

Amount Awarded

$305,641.00

Investigator

Gerardo Lopez, Ph.D.
University of Arizona

Co-Investigator(s)

Paula Rivadeneira, Ph.D, Kelly Bright, Ph.D, Charles P. Gerba, Ph.D, Walter Betancourt, Ph.D, University of Arizona

Summary

 Cyclospora has recently been implicated in outbreaks associated with U.S. produce imported from Mexico. Outbreaks have also been linked to drinking water. Information on the sources and occurrence of this organism are very limited. Currently, only humans and possibly primates are believed to be infected by this parasite. Our goal is to determine if produce in the United States is at risk of contamination from irrigation waters contaminated with human sewage (e.g., from faulty/leaky septic systems or compromised sewer pipes) and treated wastewater effluents that could potentially be discharged into surface waters used for the irrigation of food crops. Our specific objectives are to: a) determine the occurrence of C. cayetanensis in irrigation waters in Arizona and Texas. This will allow a determination of any risk from C. cayetanensis and to identify areas of potential risk; and b) to determine the occurrence of C. cayetanensis in raw sewage and treated wastewater effluents in produce producing areas such as Yuma, AZ and El Paso, TX. This data will allow for an assessment of the incidence of C. cayetanensis infection among these communities. In addition, treated wastewater effluents are sometimes released into watersheds and could potentially impact irrigation waters. This study will allow us to determine if any risks exist from Cyclospora in irrigation waters from these two regions.

Technical Abstract

 Cyclospora cayetanensis has been implicated over the last several years in outbreaks associated with fresh produce in the United States imported from Mexico. Outbreaks have also been linked to drinking water. Information on the sources and occurrence of this protozoan parasite are very limited. It is believed that only humans and possibly primates can be infected by this organism. Recently, we have identified the presence of C. cayetanensis in treated and raw sewage in Tucson, Arizona. In addition, a recent study in Italy found C. cayetanensis in treated wastewater used for irrigation. The goal of the proposed study is to determine if produce in the United States is at risk of contamination from irrigation waters contaminated with human sewage (e.g., from faulty/leaky septic systems or compromised sewer pipes) and treated wastewater effluents potentially discharged into surface waters used for the irrigation of food crops. Our specific objectives are a) to determine the occurrence of C. cayetanensis in irrigation waters in Arizona and Texas, and b) to determine the occurrence of C. cayetanensis in raw sewage in produce producing areas such as Yuma, AZ and El Paso, TX.

To meet these objectives, we will collect five 100-liter irrigation water samples monthly over a 2-year period from Yuma, AZ and the Upper Rio Grande Valley in Texas/New Mexico for a total of 240 samples collected over the project period (120 per region). C. cayetanensis will be concentrated from Irrigation water samples using Envirochek high-volume (HV) filters. To determine the incidence of C. cayetanensis in influent (raw sewage) and effluent (treated wastewater) in these produce growing areas in Arizona and Texas, 1-liter raw sewage and treated wastewater grab samples will be collected monthly over a 2-year period from three wastewater treatment plants near agricultural fields in Yuma, AZ and El Paso, TX for a total of 288 samples collected over the project period (144 samples per region). C. cayetanensis will be concentrated using an electronegative filter method attached to a glass filter holder to a final volume of 1.5 ml. All water and wastewater concentrates will be examined for the presence of C. cayetanensis using a SYBR-Green quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) method.

This study will allow us to determine if any risks exist from C. cayetanensis in irrigation waters in Arizona and Texas. It will also allow us to determine that if such risks exist, what sources may be present, and potential options for reducing the risk. The occurrence of C. cayetanensis in raw sewage and in treated wastewater in produce growing areas such as Yuma, AZ and El Paso, TX will allow an assessment of the incidence of C. cayetanensis infection in these communities and the potential for contamination of watershed water that could have an impact on irrigation water quality.