Cyclospora is an infection of the bowel caused by a tiny parasite called Cyclospora cayetanensis. It is usually caught from eating raw fruit and vegetables contaminated with human faeces (poo).
Diarrhoea , which can often be severe, is the most common symptom of cyclospora. Symptoms usually appear about a week after catching the parasite.
Other symptoms can include:
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- stomach cramps or pain
- increased gas ( flatulence )
- feeling sick (nausea)
Although these symptoms are often unpleasant, cyclospora doesn't usually pose a serious threat to health and can be easily treated using antibiotics .
Some people with cyclospora don't have any symptoms. These are usually people who've grown up in a developing country and been previously exposed to the parasite.
Who's at risk?
People travelling to tropical or subtropical countries may be at increased risk of infection because cyclospora is common in many developing countries.
Most of the cases reported in England and Wales involve people who'vereturned from trips to:
- the Caribbean
- Central and South America
- the Indian subcontinent
- the Far East
There have been relatively few cases involving people holidaying in Africa.
What causes cyclospora?
Cyclospora is caught by consuming food – especially raw berries, herbs and salad items – or water contaminated with human faeces (poo) carrying the parasite.
The parasite lives in the poo. You can't catch cyclospora by coming into contact with an infected person, such as someone who hasn’t washed their hands after going to the toilet. Once in the poo, the parasite takes about 10 days before becoming infectious.
If cyclospora isn't treated, the illness may last from a few days to a month or longer. Symptoms may seem to go away and then return more than once. It's common to feel very tired.
If you think you have cyclospora, you're advised to see your doctor to check your symptoms. Mention your recent travel history.
Cyclospora is treated with a course of antibiotics called co-trimoxazole.
The following hygiene measures will help reduce your risk of catching cyclospora when travelling to affected areas:
- wash your hands (with soap and water) after going to the toilet
- wash hands before preparing or eating food
- make sure food is steaming hot
- avoid raw fruit and vegetables that haven't been washed in clean water
- only drink bottled water and avoid ice in drinks
- beware of any product that you suspect may have been tampered with, including bottled water
For more general advice about avoiding food poisoning while on holiday, read food and water abroad.