Girls holding a dog
TGen tackles Valley Fever, one dog at a time
Valley Fever, a disease caused by a fungus in Arizona’s dust, not only affects people, but can also affect their pets. A new study launched by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) invites pet parents to share information about their dogs to better understand the disease through an effort called Valley Fever PAWS.
To help, pet parents are encouraged to register their dogs at: tgen.org/vfpaws.
TGen’s canine programs will be featured at a booth during the 2016 Phoenix Pet Expo at WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road. The free event runs from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. April 16, and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. April 17.
TGen researchers are seeking more than 2,000 participants who have dogs both with, and without, Valley Fever. Already, more than 200 dog owners have signed up. TGen is urging the veterinary community to help encourage the collection of this information.
The data will enable TGen researchers to understand each breed’s risk for disease. They are seeking registration of dogs in Arizona and California’s Central Valley. These areas are the main source of Valley Fever, though the disease is expanding geographically and recently was confirmed in the state of Washington.
Eventually, some registrants will be asked to provide a sample of their dog’s DNA from a cheek-swab of their dog’s saliva. Kits to perform this simple sample collection will be provided by TGen. In time, this information would be used to help develop new therapies for both dogs and people.
“In certain dogs, a minor infection can progress to severe disease, and the reasons for this are unknown,” said Dr. Bridget Barker, TGen Assistant Professor and head of TGen’s Northern Arizona Center for Valley Fever Research. “The data we collect will help us understand traits that affect one breed’s susceptibility to Valley Fever in comparison to other breeds, and hopefully provide greater clarity on how the disease affects people.”
In both people and dogs, Valley Fever is an infection caused by the microscopic fungus Coccidioides, which lives in desert soils and typically enters the body through the lungs.
Nearly 60 percent of infected people, and dogs, develop no significant symptoms, however some infected patients develop symptoms that can be highly debilitating, such as cough, fever and fatigue. These symptoms are similar to other respiratory diseases caused by bacteria or virus, and often lead to delayed diagnoses and inappropriate treatment. Very severe disease can require lifelong treatment with antifungal drugs.
Key facts about Valley Fever
• There is no vaccine or cure for Valley Fever, a potentially fatal disease.
• Each year, nearly 150,000 Americans are infected by Valley Fever, and as many as 500 die annually.
• Dogs have cold- or flu-like symptoms, starting about 5-21 days after exposure.
• 28 percent of dogs in Tucson catch Valley Fever by the age of 2.
• 6 percent of these dogs will show clinical signs of illness.
For more information about TGen’s Valley Fever PAWS (Prevention, Awareness, Working for Solutions), www.facebook.com/vfpaws.
For more information about TGen’s overall Dog and Human Precision Medicine initiative, visit www.tgen.org/canine.
TGen also is involved in developing a new diagnostic test for Valley Fever in people. For more information about the test, visit www.tgen.org/home/news/2015-media-releases/tgen-developed-valley-fever-test-in-clinical-trials.