There is uncertainty whether Cryptosporidium oocysts attach to particles or to each other under ambient water conditions. Particle size distributions of Cryptosporidium oocyst suspensions were determined over a range of ionic strengths and pHs to determine under those environmental conditions that may promote oocyst aggregation. Cryptosporidium oocysts were shown to only aggregate in high ionic strength solutions (>0.45 M) and remain largely as single entities at ionic strengths and pHs that were likely to be encountered in surface runoff. Similarly, in loam soil suspensions, rather than attaching to the soil particles the majority of oocysts also remained as single entities. Overall, oocysts are expected to remain largely unattached to either themselves or soil particles in overland runoff. This has implications for pathogen transport and modelling since oocysts that are freely suspended are more likely to be transported in runoff to surface waters than if attached to more dense soil/faecal particles.

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