[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The microsporidia have recently been recognized as a group of pathogens that have potential for waterborne transmission; however, little is known about the effects of routine disinfection on microsporidian spore viability. In this study, in vitro growth of Encephalitozoon syn. Septata intestinalis, a microsporidium found in the human gut, was used as a model to assess the effect of chlorine on the infectivity and viability of microsporidian spores. Spore inoculum concentrations were determined by using spectrophotometric measurements (percent transmittance at 625 nm) and by traditional hemacytometer counting. To determine quantitative dose-response data for spore infectivity, we optimized a rabbit kidney cell culture system in 24-well plates, which facilitated calculation of a 50% tissue culture infective dose (TCID(50)) and a minimal infective dose (MID) for E. intestinalis. The TCID(50) is a quantitative measure of infectivity and growth and is the number of organisms that must be present to infect 50% of the cell culture wells tested. The MID is as a measure of a system's permissiveness to infection and a measure of spore infectivity. A standardized MID and a standardized TCID(50) have not been reported previously for any microsporidian species. Both types of doses are reported in this paper, and the values were used to evaluate the effects of chlorine disinfection on the in vitro growth of microsporidia. Spores were treated with chlorine at concentrations of 0, 1, 2, 5, and 10 mg/liter. The exposure times ranged from 0 to 80 min at 25 degrees C and pH 7. MID data for E. intestinalis were compared before and after chlorine disinfection. A 3-log reduction (99.9% inhibition) in the E. intestinalis MID was observed at a chlorine concentration of 2 mg/liter after a minimum exposure time of 16 min. The log(10) reduction results based on percent transmittance-derived spore counts were equivalent to the results based on hemacytometer-derived spore counts. Our data suggest that chlorine treatment may be an effective water treatment for E. intestinalis and that spectrophotometric methods may be substituted for labor-intensive hemacytometer methods when spores are counted in laboratory-based chlorine disinfection studies.