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BACKGROUND: Serological data suggest that Cryptosporidium infections are common but underreported. The invasiveness of blood sampling limits the application of serology in epidemiological surveillance. We pilot-tested a non-invasive salivary anti-Cryptosporidium antibody assay in a community survey involving children and adults.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Families with children were recruited in a Massachusetts community in July; symptoms data were collected at 3 monthly follow-up mail surveys. One saliva sample per person (n = 349) was collected via mail, with the last survey in October. Samples were analyzed for IgG and IgA responses to a recombinant C. hominis gp15 sporozoite protein using a time-resolved fluorometric immunoassay. Log-transformed assay results were regressed on age using penalized B-splines to account for the strong age-dependence of antibody reactions. Positive responses were defined as fluorescence values above the upper 99% prediction limit.

RESULTS: Forty-seven (13.5%) individuals had diarrhea without concurrent respiratory symptoms during the 3-month-long follow-up; eight of them had these symptoms during the month prior to saliva sampling. Two individuals had positive IgG responses: an adult who had diarrhea during the prior month and a child who had episodes of diarrhea during each survey month (Fisher's exact test for an association between diarrhea and IgG response: p = 0.0005 for symptoms during the prior month and p = 0.02 for symptoms during the entire follow-up period). The child also had a positive IgA response, along with two asymptomatic individuals (an association between diarrhea and IgA was not significant).

CONCLUSION: These results suggest that the salivary IgG specific to Cryptosporidium antigens warrants further evaluation as a potential indicator of recent infections.



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