Epidemiology and Infection

Research Article

An outbreak of waterborne cryptosporidiosis in Swindon and Oxfordshire

A. J. Richardsona1, R. A Frankenberga2, A. C. Bucka3, J. B. Selkona4, J. S. Colbournea5, J. W. Parsonsa6 and R. T. Mayon-Whitea2

a1 Department of Public Health Medicine, Wessex Regional Health Authority, Romsey Road, Winchester SO22 5DH

a2 Department of Public Health Medicine, Oxfordshire Health Authority, Manor House, Headley Way, Oxford 0X3 9DZ

a3 Pathology Department, Princess Margaret Hospital, Okus Road, Swindon SN1 4JU

a4 Oxford Public Health Laboratory, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford

a5 Thames Water Services, New River Head, Roseberry Avenue, London EC1 4TP

a6 Swindon Health Authority, Okus Road, Swindon SN1 4JU.


An outbreak of cryptosporidiosis resulted in 516 cases in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire. The outbreak caused widespread interest and led to an official inquiry. The majority of cases were in children; 8% of cases were admitted to hospital and the median duration of illness was 3 weeks. The geographical distribution of cases matched the distribution of water supplies from three treatment works and eryptosporidium oocysts were found at these works and in the treated water. Attack rates in electoral wards supplied by the three treatment works were significantly higher than in other wards. The cause of the outbreak appeared to be the failure of normal treatment to remove oocysts. Measures at the treatment works reduced the number of oocysts detected in treated water, after which the outbreak came to an end. The conclusion of the investigations was that cryptosporidiosis is a risk of conventionally treated public water supplies.

(Accepted July 10 1991)