Infection by the dimorphic fungus Coccidioides immitis causes coccidioidomycosis. Because the microbe is endemic to the San Joaquin Valley of California, the disease is sometimes referred to as Valley fever. A related species that causes similar infections is found in semi-arid and arid regions of the southwestern United States, Mexico, and Central and South America.
Like histoplasmosis, coccidioidomycosis is acquired by inhaling fungal spores—in this case, arthrospores formed by hyphal fragmentation. Once in the body, the fungus differentiates into spherules that are filled with endospores. Most C. immitis infections are asymptomatic and self-limiting. However, the infection can be very serious for immunocompromised patients. The endospores may be transported in the blood, disseminating the infection and leading to the formation of granulomatous lesions on the face and nose. In severe cases, other major organs can become infected, leading to serious complications such as fatal meningitis.
Coccidioidomycosis can be diagnosed by culturing clinical samples. C. immitis readily grows on laboratory fungal media, such as Sabouraud’s dextrose agar, at 35 °C (95 °F). Culturing the fungus, however, is rather dangerous. C. immitis is one of the most infectious fungal pathogens known and is capable of causing laboratory-acquired infections. Indeed, until 2012, this organism was considered a “select agent” of bioterrorism and classified as a BSL-3 microbe. Serological tests for antibody production are more often used for diagnosis. Although mild cases generally do not require intervention, disseminated infections can be treated with intravenous antifungal drugs like amphotericin B.
Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology