Valley Fever research lands $2.27 million grant

Posted at 8:23 AM, Jun 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-15 15:44:13-04

University of Arizona researchers landed a $2.27 million dollar grant to study how genetics plays a role in how Valley Fever affects different people. 

For some, Valley Fever barely affects them, while others will end up in intensive care with a severe form of the disease. 

"The Sonoran Desert is a really prime area for this infection. If you inhale one of these spores, it causes an infection in your lungs," said Dr. John Galgiani, Director of UA Valley Fever Center for Excellence.

The grant was awarded to UA Valley Fever Center for Excellence from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or NIAID. 

According to the research center, "Dr. Galgiani, with co-investigators Steve M. Holland, MD, and Yves A. Lussier, MD, will probe what makes some individuals more susceptible for the infection to spread from their lungs, causing what is called 'disseminated coccidioidomycosis,' when the infection gets in the blood and moves from the lungs to skin, bones and joints, and/or to the spinal cord and brain." 

In Galgiani and Hollands article, "Risk Factors for Disseminated Coccidioidomycosis, United States," published in February's Journal Emerging Infectious Disease, they note a person's sex, race/ethnicity, immune status and pregnancy are all factors to how a person will be affected by Valley Fever.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60 percent of people who come in contact with the fungus Coccidioides don't have any symptoms. 

RELATED: Do you know the symptoms of Valley Fever?

The Valley Fever Center for Excellence cites "5 to 10 percent develop serious or long-term problems in their lungs. For about 1 percent, the infection spreads to other parts of the body. Of roughly 150,000 cases reported each year, Valley Fever kills about 160 people."

"I felt lethargic, was tired a lot. Really didn't...until last October until I started catching a cough, just didn't think much about it and then by February it was overcame me, said John Selinsky, a Valley Fever Patient.

Selinsky's doctors first diagnosed him with tonsillitis but soon discovered the Valley Fever through X-rays. He had spent a week in the hospital. He now suggests that people think about what's going on outside and protect themselves. 

Dr. Galgiani said many doctors who move to Arizona to practice don't know much about the disease because where they came from, it didn't happen often. As the program grows across the Valley, Galgiani thinks a lot of primary care physicians will be more involved. 

"Much of this disease often doesn't need special care. We want to increase the number of primary care physicians that can do this on their own and only refer the patients that really a much more complicated forms," Galgiani told ABC15.

Dr. Galgiani says researchers will also use the grant money to develop tests that can detect your risk level of getting the disease, especially the very severe form.

The Valley Fever Center for Excellence received the first part of the grant money in March and will continue to receive the remainder of the grant over the next four years. 

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