Tuesday 17 July 2018


You could be forgiven for thinking that cyclosporiasis was a fungal infection acquired on Le Tour de France, but you'd be wrong. It is rather the consequence of being infected by another apicomplexan parasite. Another? Well, those you may know about include:
These are all protozoan parasites, single-celled organisms with a nucleus, but only a bit bigger than typical bacteria. Cyclospora cayetanensis , the cause of cyclosporiasis was unknown until about 30 years ago, when it was characterised by researchers at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, who were looking for evidence of Cryptosporidium parvum in the barrios of Lima. What they found was a new species [Cyclospora cayetanensis A in panel below] which was similar to but different from Cryptosporidium muris [B] and  Cryptosporidium parvum [C] and so they got to name it after their place of work. They are all almost exactly the same size as a human red blood cell.

It's probably the same as an organism isolated from stool samples in Papua New Guinea in 1979. Since its discovery in the tropics, it has been responsible for numerous epidemics in the United States. Including one which made the New York Times 7th Jul 18 because 200 people across the upper midwest had gotten sick after eating Fresh Del Monte Produce vegetable trays containing broccoli, cauliflower, celery sticks, carrots and dill dip. That's what the CDC is saying anyway.

They may be wrong yet, because Cyclospora takes so long to hatch out of its spore and start to go forth and multiply in your gut that a week or more will have gone by before you have symptoms. [Let's hear it for symptoms: Watery diarrhoea; Loss of appetite+weight loss; Cramping; Bloating; Gas; Nausea; Fatigue] What the epidemiologists at the CDC have to do is find something that 200+ random people across 4 states have eaten-in-common the weekend before last. Someone else has to do a [watery] stool analysis to make sure everyone has the same bug. Of the 36 outbreaks of cyclosporiasis this century, CDC were only able to identify a culprit in 16 and of those only 8 were unqualified by 'suspected' or 'likely'.

And Del Monte are having to scratch their heads about which of the ingredients in their fashion-accessory plastic-trayed health-snack to blame: the cauliflower from Arizona? the celery sticks from Belize? Because they have to send their quality-control hard-men down the supply chain to find the source and close it off. Del Monte don't want to annoy their clean and loyal producers of perfect broccoli florets if the slack-bobs two states over, who julienne the carrots, are to blame. It's a globalisation head-ache for producers and consumers alike.

It's ironic that this infection catches people who feel virtuous because they obey Micheal Pollan's dietary instructions [prev and prevlier]  "Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not Too Much". Well what do you expect if you buy your Mostly Plants in a clam-shell tray filled with stuff from who-knows-where?

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