Summer season offers increased opportunities for parasite infestations, says researcher

Memorial Day weekend – the traditional kick-off to the summer season – offers increased opportunities for parasite infestations, says an Indiana University School of Medicine researcher.

Specifically, Toxoplasma gondii and cryptosporidium pose special risks to those engaged in a variety of outdoor activities and are especially concerning for those who are pregnant or immunocompromised, the elderly and children.

William Sullivan, PhD, professor of pharmacology, toxicology, microbiology and immunology with IU School of Medicine, cites five "hot zones" that are often the source for parasite infestations:

  • Sandboxes
  • Gardens
  • Outdoor grilling
  • Swimming pools
  • Public fountains

Sandboxes, gardens and outdoor grilling carry risks of Toxoplasma gondii infection, which can cause miscarriage or birth defects. Swimming pools and public fountains are concerns for cryptosporidium, which causes the diarrheal disease cryptosporidiosis and is a leading cause of waterborne disease among humans in the United States. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, stomach cramps and dehydration. Both pathogens can be life-threatening to immunocompromised individuals.

"Both parasites, while varying greatly, are cause for concern," says Dr. Sullivan. "Simple precautions can be taken to keep you and your family safe."

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