Professor Marni Finkelstein
In the Northern hemisphere, particularly in southwestern regions, the United States and in northern Mexico dwells a disease called Coccidioidomycosis, which is also known as San Joaquin Fever, Valley Fever and Posada’s disease. Coccidioidomycosis is a fungal disease, which in most cases enters the body through the lungs. Both humans and mammals are susceptible to this infection. Specific areas have become endemic for a variety of reasons. Some reasons being, population swelling and the increase in tourism, that causes the infection to grow and manifest itself. There are various forms, where the infection can occur, such as: chronic progressive pneumonia, acute pneumonia, meningitis and extra pulmonary non-meningeal disease. The infection does not affect everyone the same and can cause only flu-like symptoms for patients, while others can experience the more severe side. This specific fungal infection has no exact cure but does have a handful of treatments available.
A medical student in Argentina, Alejandro Posadas, discovered the first case of Coccidioidomycosis in 1892. Alejandro was an intern in Buenos Aires was studying a soldier who had a lesion on his right cheek. Later on more red and itchy spots developed and evolved into papules that discharged pus, another sign of the disease. By 1894 reports started to surface of Coccidioidomycosis, in California. Up until 1929 the infection was looked upon as being rare and fatal, but in the 1930’s and 40’s this view changed. The idea of it being less fatal steamed from the accidental inhaling of a specimen culture done by a medical student. In the end it turned out to be the nonfatal form of the infection, which led to the creation of skin tests and serological testing. Many immigrants were also moving from the Midwest to San Joaquin Valley, California to avoid drought and find employment, adding to the population growth. Also, during the years of World War II military workers who were practicing dessert combat and doing construction outdoors had come down with “valley fever” which caused multiple important studies to be conducted. The interest of studying Coccidioidomycosis has been renewed over the years because of the increase of migration to the Sunbelt states. Places like; Tuscon, Arizona; Fresno and Bakersfield Fresno, California and Texas were once populated with just a few people have now become these large cities. Large cities mean a higher population, which means a higher risk for the disease.
There are two specific fungi’s that when combined cause the infection Coccidioidomycosis. These funguses are called, Coccidioides immitis and Coccidioides posadasii. Coccidioides immitis and C possadasii are both pathogenic fungus that are dimorphic, meaning they can live in either yeast or a mold and they are both soil- borne. These fungi’s share multiple characteristics but their tolerance to salt and heat differ. Both of them can be found in semiarid regions that have alkaline sandy soils. Once the funguses grow they absorb different decaying materials, and turn into a mold, which forms a spore. Spores are tiny temporary inactive forms of a germ enclosed in a protective shell. When both of the above fungi’s do combine they cause the “valley fever” infection. The C immitis species exists in both saprophytic and parasitic phases. Saprophytic is the nourishment the funguses take in from decaying or dead organic materials. The parasitic phase is when the host inhales the toxic spores. Both funguses may look the same but differ in terms of each ones’ tolerance to heat and saline levels. Once the microscopic spores enter the...
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