UA scientists get federal grant to try to solve mystery surrounding valley fever

Updated: Apr. 24, 2017 at 5:25 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The University of Arizona Valley Fever Center For Excellence is getting a $2.27 million federal grant to find out why some of us get so sick from inhaling the fungus that causes valley fever, and some of us do not.

Whether you live here or are just visiting, valley fever could affect you, especially this time of year.

Dry and windy conditions are perfect for blowing up the desert dust that holds the fungus that causes valley fever.

Two-thirds of the valley fever cases in the entire country happen in the region from Tucson to Phoenix.

Valley Fever Center For Excellence Director Dr. John Galgiani calls it the valley fever corridor.

The fungus lives in the desert soil.

It's when we inhale that fungus that we can get sick with valley fever, a lung disease.

However, some of us don't get sick.

Others get sick, but the disease resolves itself.

In rare cases, the disease can spread to bones, the brain and/or the skin and needs aggressive treatment or it can be deadly.

University of Arizona scientists will use the National Institutes of Health grant to try to find out what's going on in our genes that makes us react so differently.

That information could lead to a test to find out if a vaccine could protect the most susceptible people.

"It could be, for instance, that the immune system actually does work, it just works kind of slowly in those people so that by the time you develop your immunity, you've already had the complications develop. If that's the case, actually a vaccine would work because if we could vaccinate people before they were actually exposed to the infection, they would then be protected. So it has lots of implications as to whether or not the vaccine strategy is really going to be as valuable as we hope it will be," Galgiani said.

Researchers are working on a vaccine.

If you would like learn more or be part of the latest study in the fight against valley fever, call Martha Barron at 520-626-8569.

To be in the study, you must have had a diagnosis of valley fever and provide the medical documentation.

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