Deformability Assessment of Waterborne Protozoa Using a Microfluidic-Enabled Force Microscopy Probe

John S. McGrath, Jos Quist, James Richard Thorley Seddon, Stanley Lai, Serge Joseph Guy Lemay, Helen L. Bridle

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Many modern filtration technologies are incapable of the complete removal of Cryptosporidium oocysts from drinking-water. Consequently, Cryptosporidium-contaminated drinking-water supplies can severely implicate both water utilities and consumers. Existing methods for the detection of Cryptosporidium in drinking-water do not discern between non-pathogenic and pathogenic species, nor between viable and non-viable oocysts. Using FluidFM, a novel force spectroscopy method employing microchannelled cantilevers for single-cell level manipulation, we assessed the size and deformability properties of two species of Cryptosporidium that pose varying levels of risk to human health. A comparison of such characteristics demonstrated the ability of FluidFM to discern between Cryptosporidium muris and Cryptosporidium parvum with 86% efficiency, whilst using a measurement throughput which exceeded 50 discrete oocysts per hour. In addition, we measured the deformability properties for untreated and temperature-inactivated oocysts of the highly infective, human pathogenic C. parvum to assess whether deformability may be a marker of viability. Our results indicate that untreated and temperature-inactivated C. parvum oocysts had overlapping but significantly different deformability distributions.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0150438
Pages (from-to)e0150438-
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016



  • IR-103203
  • METIS-320138

Cite this

McGrath, J. S., Quist, J., Seddon, J. R. T., Lai, S., Lemay, S. J. G., & Bridle, H. L. (2016). Deformability Assessment of Waterborne Protozoa Using a Microfluidic-Enabled Force Microscopy Probe. PLoS ONE, 11(3), e0150438-. [e0150438].