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Can genetics predict who gets severe Valley Fever?

UA has $2.2 Mil study to answer that question
Posted at 5:48 PM, Jun 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-15 21:32:26-04

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Valley Fever is a disease you can catch from the dust in the air.

Many cases are mild but some can be so severe they attack skin and bone and threaten your life.

Now UA researchers have a more than two million dollar grant to learn who Valley Fever is more likely to hit hard.

You don't need dust this thick to catch Valley Fever.

It takes just one speck of dust that has the Valley Fever along for the ride.

The organism that causes Valley Fever is a type of fungus.  When it's in the dry soil it's basically asleep.  But if something kicks it up and you get that into your lungs, the moisture in your lungs wakes up that spore and you get an infection.

Dr John Galgiani leads UA's Valley Fever Center for Excellence.  He says two out of three people infected get such a mild infection they don't even know they have Valley Fever. They'll be immune for life.

“But the one-third that do get sick usually get an illness that lasts maybe many weeks to many months but they also get over it on their own.  But a small percentage, maybe one out of every two hundred people that inhale a spore don't have it stop there in the lungs, they have it go through the bloodstream to other parts of the body."

That's the ugliest face of the fever: painful pockets of infection under the skin and infection that can even weaken your bones.  It can range from miserable to fatal.

Dr. Galgiani says, “We think there are about a 160 deaths a year from Valley Fever infections but even more than that are the disability and morbidity associated with draining ulcers and bones that are breaking and central nervous system symptoms."

Dr.Gagliani thinks your genes may make the difference between an infection you don't even notice and a case that breaks down your body.  Now UA's Valley Fever Program has a $2.2 Million dollar Federal grant to test for genetic links.  That could help people get treatment before Valley Fever becomes severe, or even lead to a vaccine.

If you have Valley Fever you may be able to help with the genetics study.  If you’d like to help you can call the UA Valley Fever Center for Excellence at 520-626-1808.