Valley fever has long haunted the American Southwest: Soldiers on dusty military bases, prisoners in wind-swept jails, construction workers pushing new suburbs farther into deserts have all encountered Coccidioides, the flesh-eating fungus that causes Valley fever. But the threat is growing. Cases have roughly quadrupled over the past two decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The fungus thrives in dry soils, rides on plumes of dust and booms after periods of extreme drought — the exact cycles that scientists say have grown more intense and widespread across the American West due to the warming climate.
In California, where more than 1,000 people are hospitalized with Valley fever each year, the impetus to develop better epidemiological tools is particularly urgent.
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In 2019, there were 20,003 cases of Valley fever reported to CDC. Most of these cases were in people who live in Arizona or California. Rates of Valley fever are typically highest among people age 60 and older. The number of Valley fever cases reported to CDC likely underestimates the true number of Valley fever cases. Tens of thousands more illnesses likely occur and may be misdiagnosed because many patients are not tested for Valley fever. CDC
NIH funding totaling more than $4.5m to UCSF, UCLA and UT San Antonio will support establishment of a Coccidioidomycosis Collaborative Research Center. This effort is the first of its kind, creating a coordinated effort amongst these institutions to fill research gaps on ways to prevent, diagnose and treat Valley Fever. Global Biodefense
Coccidioides immitis and posadasii are closely related fungal species that cause coccidioidomycosis. These dimorphic organisms cause disease in immunocompetent as well as immunocompromised individuals and as much as 40% of the population is infected in the endemic area. Although most infections resolve spontaneously, the infection can be prolonged and, in some instances, fatal. In patients where the infection is not self-limited, the disease can spread to skin, bone, and the central nervous system among many other organs. Although disseminated disease is unusual, it occurs in both immunocompetent and immunocompromised people, is frequently difficult to treat, and can be fatal. Journal of Fungi