What are cysts?

by wfnblog on April 17, 2012

Frequently Asked Water Filter Questions AnsweredAccording to the Environmental Protection Agency, oocsyts (commonly known as cysts) are “a stage in the life-cycle of some protozoa.” They are not bacteria or viruses, but one-celled organisms in an early phase of development, very much like a microscopic egg. Waterborne protozoan parasites, such as Cryptosporidum and Giardia lamblia are resistant to chlorine and other disinfectants when in their cyst phase. Cysts cause a variety of stomach and intestinal issues, ranging from mild to severe. Flu-like symptoms can include persistent diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, weight loss and sometimes dehydration.

Carbon filters purify water of Cryptosporidium cystsChlorine disinfection is not effective at removing cysts, because they have developed a hardy protective layer. They are thick-walled spores that enable the parasite to survive in harsh conditions and for lengthy periods of time outside of a host. When you drink water that has protozoan cysts in it, your stomach acid breaks down the outer walls of the cysts. The encapsulated protozoa are released into your gastrointestinal tract, where they can reproduce to number into the millions.

Cryptosporidium and Giardia lamblia are two common examples of these one-celled microbes. They are commonly found in lakes and rivers. Cysts intially enter the water through animal and human fecal matter. Giardia has became famous as the “backpacker’s disease,” because so many unprepared hikers often became ill after drinking water directly from clear mountain streams.

Carbon filters purify drinking water of Giardia lamblia cystsOne of the most reliable ways to remove cysts from your drinking water is through activated carbon filtration. Cysts are large enough that many carbon filters can safely take about 99% of them out of your drinking water. Activated carbon filters to reduce cysts are available for use with many point-of-use systems, including refrigerator water filters, faucet water filters, inline filters and under sink filtration systems. Reverse osmosis systems are also highly effective in filtering cysts from your drinking water.

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