Coccidioides immitis and Coccidioides posadasii are soil fungi endemic to desert regions of the southwestern United States, and the causative agents of valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis. Studies have shown that the distribution of Coccidioides in soils is sporadic and cannot be explained by soil characteristics alone, suggesting that biotic and other abiotic factors should be examined. However, tools to reliably and robustly screen the large number of soils needed to investigate these potential associations have not been available. Thus, we developed a real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay for testing environmental samples by modifying CocciDx, an assay validated for testing clinical specimens to facilitate coccidioidomycosis diagnosis. For this study, we collected soil samples from previously established locations of C. posadasii in Arizona and new locations in fall 2013 and spring 2014, and screened the extracted DNA with the new assay known as CocciEnv. To verify the presence of Coccidioides in soil using an alternate method, we employed next generation amplicon sequencing targeting the ITS2 region. Results show our modified assay, CocciEnv, is a rapid and robust method for detecting Coccidioides DNA in complex environmental samples. The ability to test a large number of soils for the presence of Coccidioides is a much-needed tool in the understanding of the ecology of the organism and epidemiology of the disease and will greatly improve our understanding of this human pathogen.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases