Cyclosporiasis Factsheet

What is Cyclosporiasis?
Cyclosporiasis is an illness caused by the intestinal parasite, Cyclospora cayetanensis.

How is Cyclosporiasis spread?

Cyclosporiasis is spread by people consuming food or water that has been contaminated with faeces (stool). Cyclospora needs a number of days or weeks after being passed in the bowel motion of one person to become infectious to another person. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Cyclospora can be passed directly from one person to another.

Who is at risk for Cyclospora infection?

People living or traveling in tropical or subtropical parts of the world may be at increased risk for infection because cyclosporiasis is endemic (naturally found) in some countries in these zones. In the United States and Europe, foodborne outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce such as raspberries, snow peas, lettuce, basil and leaf coriander. In 2016 there was a large outbreak of cyclosporiasis in the UK among people returning from Mexico.

How is Cyclospora spread?

Cyclospora is spread when a person consumes food contaminated with the parasite. Eggs (oocysts) of the parasite travel to the gut where they invade intestinal tissue and multiply, being passed out in infected bowel motions.

What are the symptoms of Cyclospora infection?

The incubation period (between becoming infected and becoming sick) is usually about seven days. Cyclospora infects the small intestine (bowel) and usually causes watery diarrhoea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements.

Infection with Cyclospora may be asymptomatic or mild especially in those living in endemic areas. Occasionally the illness can start with a mild flu-like illness for a few days, followed by rapid onset of gastrointestinal symptoms. Typical symptoms include:

•    watery diarrhoea
•    fatigue and muscle pain
•    loss of appetite
•    weight loss
•    cramping
•    abdominal wind or bloating
•    nausea

How is Cyclosporiasis treated?

Treatment is with simple antibiotics, which would be prescribed by your GP. People who have Cyclosporiasis should also rest and drink plenty of fluids.

How long do the symptoms of Cyclosporiasis last?

If not treated, the illness may last from a few days to a month or longer. Symptoms can come and go for some time. If chronic, Cyclosporiasis leaves the patient feeling very washed out and tired.

How is Cyclosporiasis diagnosed?

The parasite can be identified under the microscope in a sample of stool from an infected person. Additional testing of the stool may be undertaken to ensure the correct diagnosis.

How is Cyclosporiasis prevented?

Avoiding food or water that might have been contaminated with stool may help prevent Cyclosporiasis. People who have previously been infected with Cyclospora can become infected again. Travellers should follow good food and water hygiene advice at all times on holiday, particularly in tropical and subtropical areas, even if staying in high-end, all-inclusive resorts. Travellers should avoid food that cannot be washed in treated water or cooked. Foods often involved in Cyclospora outbreaks include soft fruits like raspberries and salad or herb products such as coriander, basil and lettuce.

Travellers should only use bottled or treated water for drinking and cleaning teeth. Ice in drinks should be avoided unless from a treated water source. Remember that drinks may also contain uncooked herbs, vegetables or fruit.

Last updated: 26 May 2017