Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts were examined to ascertain excystation requirements and the effects of gamma irradiation. Oocysts and excysted sporozoites were examined for dye permeability and infectivity. Maximum excystation occurred when oocysts were pretreated with acid and incubated with bile salts, and potassium or sodium bicarbonate. Pretreatment with Hanks' balanced salt solution or NaCl lowered excystation; however, this effect was overcome with acid. Sodium ions were replaceable with potassium ions, and sodium bicarbonate was replaceable with sodium phosphate. Oocysts that received 200 krad irradiation excysted at the same rates as nonirradiated oocysts (95%), the excystation rates were lowered (50%) by 2,000 krad, and no excystation was observed by 5,000 krad. No differences were observed between the propidium iodide (PI) permeability of untreated oocysts and oocysts treated with 200 krad, while 92% of oocysts were PI positive after 2,000 krad. Most of the sporozoites exposed to 2,000 krad were not viable as indicated by the dye permeability assay. The oocysts irradiated with 200 and 2,000 krad infected cells, but no replication was observed. The results suggest that gamma-irradiated oocysts may still be capable of excystation and apparent infection; however, because the sporozoites could not reproduce they must not have been viable.
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