A prototype immunomagnetic separation (IMS) technique was tested in five laboratories, which undertake routine analysis of water samples for Cryptosporidium oocysts, by comparing the recovery efficiency of the IMS technique with techniques in current use (the “Blue Book” Standing Committee of Analysts, SCA, method and flow cytometry, FCM). In very low turbidity samples (clean waters) of both 1ml and 10ml volumes the IMS demonstrated significantly better results than both SCA and FCM methods. Not only were higher oocyst recovery efficiencies reported but variation in recovery efficiency was reduced and fewer negative results were reported from oocyst-seeded samples than with the other two techniques. In trials with clean water or low turbidity water, FCM was the technique which most consistently reported negative results in oocyst-seeded samples and for clean water this difference was found to be statistically significant. When the water sample was turbid the recovery efficiency of the IMS technique diminished. The results suggest that the IMS technique is affected to different extents by different material constituents in water concentrates and that FCM is apparently less affected by interfering particulate matter. Despite the potential difficulties with the IMS method with turbid water samples, the results from these trials indicate that this technique would be a very useful addition to the armoury of methods for the concentration of oocysts from water samples and was considered by the trial participants to be simple, user-friendly and applicable to the processing of multiple samples simultaneously.

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