Coccidioidomycosis is a fungal disease acquired through the inhalation of spores of Coccidioides spp., which afflicts primarily humans and other mammals. It is endemic to areas in the southwestern United States, including the San Joaquin Valley portion of Kern County, California, our region of interest (ROI). Recently, incidence of coccidioidomycosis, also known as valley fever, has increased significantly, and several factors including climate change have been suggested as possible drivers for this observation. Up to date details about the ecological niche of C. immitis have escaped full characterization. In our project, we chose a three-step approach to investigate this niche: 1) We examined Landsat-5-Thematic-Mapper multispectral images of our ROI by using training pixels at a 750 m × 750 m section of Sharktooth Hill, a site confirmed to be a C. immitis growth site, to implement a Maximum Likelihood Classification scheme to map out the locations that could be suitable to support the growth of the pathogen; 2) We used the websoilsurvey database of the US Department of Agriculture to obtain soil parameter data; and 3) We investigated soil samples from 23 sites around Bakersfield, California using a multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) based method to detect the pathogen. Our results indicated that a combination of satellite imagery, soil type information, and multiplex PCR are powerful tools to predict and identify growth sites of C. immitis. This approach can be used as a basis for systematic sampling and investigation of soils to detect Coccidioides spp.
Lauer, A., Talamantes, J., Olivares, L. R. C., Medina, L. J., Baal, J. D. H., Casimiro, K., … Emery, K. W. (2014). Combining forces - The use of landsat tm satellite imagery, soil parameter information, and multiplex PCR to detect coccidioides immitis growth sites in Kern County, California. PLoS ONE, 9(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0111921