NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News ) - The Translational Genomics Research Institute said yesterday that it will use a $300,000 grant from the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission to study the genome of the fungus that causes Valley Fever, a respiratory illness that is estimated to infect around 100,000 people each year.
The ABRC awarded the funding to the Phoenix-based institute and the Arizona Department of Health Services. TGen said it will work on the project in concert with its sister branch, TGen North, which is located in Flagstaff and is focused on pathogen genomics.
TGen hopes the project will lead to a rapid diagnostic test for the disease and to possible treatments.
ADHS said that reported Valley Fever infections have surged in Arizona to a record high of 5,535 cases in 2006 -- a 57 percent increase over 2005.
Valley Fever, which also is called Coccidioides, is caused by inhaling fungal spores that inhabit the desert soil.
"Valley Fever may be the most important infectious disease in Arizona, in terms of sheer numbers of infections," said David Engelthaler, a former state epidemiologist and TGen North’s director of programs, in a statement.
TGen also said that it expects to receive an undisclosed amount of funding for the project from the Valley Fever Center for Excellence, located in Tucson.