The association of Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts with suspended particles can alter the oocysts' effective physical properties and influence their transport in aquatic systems. To assess this behavior, C. parvum oocysts were mixed with various suspended sediments under a variety of water chemical conditions, and the resulting settling of the oocysts was observed. Direct microscopic observations showed that oocysts attached to suspended sediments. Settling column and batch experiments demonstrated that oocysts are removed from suspension at a much higher rate when associated with sediments. The rate of oocyst sedimentation depended primarily on the type of sediment with which the oocysts were mixed. Changes in background water conditions had a relatively small impact on the extent of oocyst-particle association and the resulting oocyst deposition. We believe that the ubiquitous association of C. parvum oocysts with suspended particles enhances the sedimentation of oocysts in natural waters and that this interaction should generally be considered when predicting the migration of pathogens in the environment.
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