Biological and Environmental Research - Earth and Environmental System Sciences
Earth and Environmental System Modeling

The influence of current and future climate on the spatial distribution of coccidioidomycosis in the southwestern United States

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 14:55
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Coccidioidomycosis, otherwise known as valley fever, is an infectious fungal disease currently endemic to the southwestern U.S. The magnitude, spatial distribution, and seasonality of valley fever incidence is shaped by variations in regional climate. As such, climate change may cause new communities to become at risk for contracting this disease. Humans contract valley fever by inhaling fungal spores of the genus CoccidioidesCoccidioides grow in the soil as a mycelium, and when stressed, autolyze into spores 2-5 µm in length. Spores can become airborne from any natural or anthropogenic soil disturbance, which can be exacerbated by dry soil conditions. Understanding the relationship between climate and valley fever incidence is critical for future disease risk management. We explored several multivariate techniques to create a predictive model of county-level valley fever incidence throughout the southwestern U.S., including Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah. We incorporated surface air temperature, precipitation, soil moisture, surface dust concentrations, leaf area index, and the amount of agricultural land, all of which influence valley fever incidence. A log-linear regression model that incorporated surface air temperature, soil moisture, surface dust concentration, and the amount of agricultural land explained 34% of the county-level variance in annual average valley fever incidence. We used this model to predict valley fever incidence for the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 using simulation output from the Community Earth System Model. In our analysis, we describe how regional hotspots of valley fever incidence may shift with sustained warming and drying in the southwestern U.S. Our predictive model of valley fever incidence may help mitigate future health impacts of valley fever by informing health officials and policy makers of the climate conditions suitable for disease outbreak.

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