Cyclospora cayetanensis is a parasite composed of one cell, too small to be seen without a microscope. This parasite causes an intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis.
Cyclospora is spread by people ingesting something — such as food or water — that was contaminated with feces (stool). Some people infected with the microscopic parasite that causes cyclospora infection develop no signs or symptoms.
For others, signs and symptoms — which usually begin within two to 11 days of eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water — may include:
- Frequent, watery diarrhea
- Bouts of diarrhea alternating with bouts of constipation
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Bloating, flatulence and burping
- Stomach cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle aches
- Fatigue — this symptom may last long after the active infection has gotten better
- General feeling of unwellness (malaise)
Over the last several years C. cayetanensis has been increasingly confirmed in surface water and food grown in the US. This may be partially attributed to improvements in testing and surveillance tools that are able to detect this parasite better than in the past.
Using a testing method developed by FDA scientists, C. cayetanensis was first found in domestically grown produce, cilantro, during a 2018 surveillance sampling assignment not associated with an outbreak. Not long after, C. cayetanensis was again detected during an outbreak linked to a salad mix made with ingredients that primarily came from domestic growers.
Rising case numbers and the emergence of C. cayetanensis in domestically grown produce prompted the FDA to create the Cyclospora Task Force in 2019. The Task Force comprises multidisciplinary experts across FDA and CDC with the goal of reducing the public health burden of foodborne illness caused by C. cayetanensis in produce.
The Cyclospora Prevention, Response and Research Action Plan was developed as a strategic guide to achieving this goal through three priority areas:
- improving prevention
- enhancing response activities
- filling knowledge gaps