Valley fever will spread increasingly in the US due to global warming

Climate change could lead to a global acceleration of fungal infections, several of which are fatal for humans, to almost double by the end of this century. This is the conclusion of a study published in AGO GeoHealth conducted by researchers at the University of California at Irvine.

The study takes into account particularly the United States where the number of states affected by the so-called “valley fever,” also known as coccidiomycosis, a mycosis spread by the fungi Coccidioides immitis and by Coccidioides posadasii, particularly widespread in California and in hot and dry regions, will increase significantly.

Researchers have made projections and models until the end of this century and have predicted that this fungal disease will move further north, across the Great Plains, to a point where most of the western United States can be considered endemic. This is what Morgan Gorris, principal author of the study, states in the press release.

The replication and spread of these fungi on the surface of the ground will be increased by the particular environmental conditions that will spread more and more and that today are already characteristic of California and the southwest of the United States. Winter rains on dry soil allow the growth and spread of fungi.

If the soil is treated and moved, for example because it is cultivated but also because of the passage of people, the filaments of the fungi break into spores, with a diameter of up to two microns, particles that can then be thrown into the air and inhaled by people more easily. When it enters the lungs, the fungus is transformed into small “balls” that grow and spread in the tissues causing the typical symptoms of the valley fever, similar to those of the flu, among other things.

The same fungus can then spread to other parts of the body and, in rare cases, can reach the brain causing death. It is estimated that 1% of people with valley fever die and the most vulnerable people are considered pregnant women, the elderly and people with HIV.


Links/Sources:

https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2019GH000209

David Turner

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