Presence of Giardia cysts and Cryptosporidium oocysts in drinking water supplies in northern Spain

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Abstract

Aims

To evaluate the prevalence of Cryptosporidium and Giardia in surface water supplies from the province of Álava, northern Spain, and to investigate possible associations among the presence of these pathogenic protozoa with microbiological, physicochemical and atmospheric parameters.

Methods and results

A total of 284 samples of drinking and recreational water supplies were analysed. Cryptosporidium oocysts were found in 63·5% of river samples, 33·3% of reservoirs samples, 15·4% and 22·6% of raw water samples from conventional and small water treatment facilities (respectively), 30·8% of treated water from small treatment facilities, and 26·8% of tap water from municipalities with chlorination treatment only. Giardia cysts were found in 92·3% of river samples, 55·5% of reservoirs samples, 26·9% and 45·2% of raw water samples from conventional and small water treatment facilities (respectively), 19·2% of treated water from small treatment facilities, and 26·8% of tap water from municipalities with chlorination treatment only. The presence of Cryptosporidium and Giardia had significant Pearson's correlation coefficients (P < 0·01) with the turbidity levels of the samples, and a number of significant associations were also found with the count levels for total coliforms and Escherichia coli. The samples were positive for Cryptosporidium significantly (P < 0·05) more frequently during the autumn season than during the spring and winter seasons. No significant differences were found in the seasonal pattern of Giardia. A moderate association (r = 0·52) was found between rainfall and the presence of Cryptosporidium oocysts.

Conclusions

Cryptosporidium and Giardia are consistently found at elevated concentrations in surface waters for human consumption from the province of Álava, northern Spain.

Significance and Impact of the Study

Water treatments based on rapid filtration process and/or chlorination only are often unsatisfactory to provide safe drinking water, a situation that represents an important public health problem for the affected population because of the risk of waterborne outbreaks.

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