The eggs of parasitic helminth worms are incredibly resilient – possessing the ability to survive changing environmental factors and exposure to chemical treatments – which has restricted the efficacy of wastewater sanitation. This research reports on the effectiveness of electroporation to permeabilize ova of Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), a helminth surrogate, for parasite deactivation. This technique utilizes electric pulses to increase cell membrane permeability in its conventional application but herein is used to open pores in nonparasitic nematode eggshells – the first report of such an application to the best knowledge of the authors. A parametric evaluation of electric field strength and total electroporation duration of eggs and worms in phosphate-buffered saline was performed using a 1 Hz pulse train of 0.01% duty cycle. The extent of pore formation was determined using a fluorescent label, propidium iodide, targeting C. elegans embryonic DNA. The results of this research demonstrate that electroporation increases eggshell permeability. This treatment, coupled with existing methods of electrochemical disinfection, could improve upon current attempts at the deactivation of helminth eggs. We discuss electroporation treatment conditions and likely modification of the lipid-rich permeability barrier within the eggshell strata.

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