Summary of Awards to Date

Cyclospora cayetanensis monitoring in agricultural water


Jan. 1, 2022 - Dec. 31, 2023

Amount Awarded



Lia Stanciu-Gregory, Ph.D.
Purdue University


Amanda Deering, Ph.D.


The parasite Cyclospora Cayetanensis is producing illness in people consuming infected produce. Because this pathogen is in very low concentrations on actual produce, which makes it close to impossible to detect, and for prevention reasons, it is more effective to check for its presence in irrigation water, from where it is typically transferred on produce. However, even in water, this parasite is very difficult to detect. It only can be detected by lengthy molecular laboratory procedures such as PCR. One major problem for scientists to develop better and faster detection methods is the fact that there is no antibody or other recognition molecule that would be able to bind to the surface of this intact parasite.

We propose to design and synthesize, for the first time, aptamers, molecules that will be able to bind to intact Cyclospora Cayetanensis oocysts, and use them to design simple paper based colorimetric tests that can detect it in the field without the need of sample preparation or specialized laboratories. The paper based test will turn from pink to purple to indicate the water sample being tested is positive for this parasite, making this a very simple and easy to use detection method for Cyclospora Cayetanensis.

Technical Abstract

Currently, there is a severe lack of standard detection and identification technologies for Cyclospora cayetanensis. There are several obstacle standing in the way of advancement towards technologies for early detection and mitigation of this parasite in agricultural water and produce. These include a lack of commercially available biorecognition elements, such as antibodies, as well as difficulties for researchers to access a source of Cyclospora cayetanensis oocysts. Here, our team propose to integrate SELEX Cyclospora cayetanensis aptamer selection and their integration into a low-cost microfluidic paper based detection devices, which our group previously developed for different analytical targets. The proposed devices will become a solution to some of the major challenges standing in the way of effective detection of C. cayetanensis in agricultural water, namely: (i) the lack of biological recognition elements for this pathogen; (ii) the challenge of low concentration that makes early detection and monitoring decisions difficult and (iii) the lack of low-cost field deployable testing devices that can monitor the presence of Cyclospora cayetanensis oocysts without extensive sample preparation protocols and trained personnel.