Cyclosporiasis is a diarrheal illness caused by the protozoan parasite, Cyclospora cayetanensis. People become infected with Cyclospora by consuming food or water that has been contaminated with feces that contain the parasite. In the last 5 years, 1 to 156 cases of cyclosporiasis have been diagnosed in Minnesota each year. The increase in cases in recent years is due in large part to the increased availability of tests that can detect Cyclospora in stool.
- Cyclosporiasis Fact Sheet
Answers to frequently asked questions about cyclosporiasis.
People become infected with Cyclospora by consuming food or water contaminated with feces that contains the parasite. Cyclospora needs to be in the environment for about 1 to 2 weeks after being passed in stool to become infectious for another person. Because of this, it is not spread directly from one person to another.
Cyclospora is found in many parts of the world but is most common in tropical and subtropical regions. Foodborne outbreaks have been linked to various types of fresh produce, including raspberries, basil, cilantro, snow peas, and mesclun and romaine lettuce. No commercially frozen or canned produce has been connected to Cyclospora infections.
In the US, most cases of cyclosporiasis typically occur during May through August.
Symptoms of cyclosporiasis usually include:
- Watery diarrhea
- Stomach cramps
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Slight fever
Symptoms usually begin about 1 week after exposure to the parasite but can begin as short as 2 days or as long as 2 weeks after exposure to the parasite.
If the infection is not treated, symptoms can last for a few days to months. The symptoms may go in cycles in which you seem to get better for a few days, then feel worse, before the illness ends.
Cyclosporiasis is diagnosed by testing a stool (poop) specimen for the parasite. Your healthcare provider may ask you to submit multiple stool specimens collected on different days to increase the chance that the parasite is found.
The treatment of choice is trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, sold under the trade names Bactrim, Septra, and Cotrim. No highly effective alternative antibiotic has been identified yet for people who have a sulfa allergy or whose symptoms do not get better after the standard treatment. Contact your healthcare provider to discuss treatment options. Diarrhea should be managed by drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
You can reduce your risk of getting cyclosporiasis by following these recommendations:
- Avoid food or water that may have been contaminated with feces.
- Washing of produce, or routine chemical disinfection or sanitizing methods, are unlikely to kill Cyclospora.
- Use caution when traveling in countries, especially those in tropical and subtropical regions, with minimal water treatment and sanitation systems by avoiding tap water, fountain drinks, ice, and raw foods like fresh produce.