Coccidioidomycosis- An Overview


Coccidioidomycosis is a fungal infection that affects the lungs and sometimes other parts of the body. It is also known as valley fever, desert rheumatism, or San Joaquin Valley fever. It is caused by two species of fungi, Coccidioides immitis and Coccidioides posadasii, that live in the soil of arid regions of the Western Hemisphere, such as southwestern United States, Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America .

People can get coccidioidomycosis by inhaling the spores of the fungi, which are released into the air when the soil is disturbed by wind, construction, farming, or other activities . The spores can travel long distances and cause outbreaks in areas where the fungi are not endemic. Most people who are exposed to the spores do not develop any symptoms or have a mild illness that goes away on its own . However, some people may develop a more severe or chronic infection that can affect the lungs, skin, bones, joints, nervous system, or other organs .

Coccidioidomycosis is more common and more severe in people who have weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, organ transplant recipients, cancer patients, or those taking immunosuppressive drugs . It is also more likely to affect certain ethnic groups, such as African Americans, Filipinos, Native Americans, Hispanics, and Asians . Pregnant women and elderly people are also at higher risk of complications from coccidioidomycosis .

The diagnosis of coccidioidomycosis is based on clinical signs and symptoms, history of exposure to endemic areas, and laboratory tests that can detect the fungi or antibodies against them in blood, sputum, cerebrospinal fluid, or tissue samples . The treatment of coccidioidomycosis depends on the severity and location of the infection. Mild cases may not require any specific treatment, while severe or disseminated cases may need antifungal drugs such as fluconazole, itraconazole, or amphotericin B . Some cases may also require surgery to remove infected tissue or drain abscesses .

The prevention and control of coccidioidomycosis are challenging because there is no vaccine available and the fungi are widespread in the environment . However, some measures that can reduce the risk of exposure include avoiding activities that generate dust in endemic areas, wearing protective masks and clothing when working with soil or animals in endemic areas, and educating travelers and health care workers about the signs and symptoms of coccidioidomycosis. Early diagnosis and treatment can also improve the outcomes and prevent complications from coccidioidomycosis.