New UCSF Fresno Valley Fever Research Registry Provides Important Tool for Researchers

Valley fever (Coccidioidomycosis) is a lung infection caused by breathing the microscopic spores of the Coccidioides fungus that grow in soil. The fungus is endemic in the San Joaquin Valley and other parts of California and the southwestern United States. The number of reported Valley fever cases in California has increased three-fold in recent years. In 2022, nearly half of the 7,546 cases in the state were reported in the nine-county region between Stockton and Bakersfield. It is likely more illnesses occur than are reported and people may be misdiagnosed because they are not tested for Valley fever.

Many people infected with Valley fever do not show any symptoms, while others may experience cold-like symptoms that last from weeks to months. In some cases, the disease can be serious and even fatal as the fungus travels from the lungs to other organs of the body including the skin, liver, kidneys and brain. More clinical research is needed so that people can be correctly diagnosed with Valley fever and receive the appropriate treatment early on to hopefully avoid later complications.

Research at UCSF Fresno is vital to our mission to improve health and access to quality health care in Central California. The UCSF Fresno Clinical Research Center is a hub for pioneering research collaborations investigating health conditions relevant to the Valley - like Valley fever - as well as clinical trials that bring new treatments to the area before they are available more broadly.

Clinical research to improve patient outcomes requires accurate databases of patient information. Currently, research teams rely on administrative and clinical systems to obtain their data, and these have limitations because they were not designed for research purposes. Special databases known as research registries are needed to support long term research and evidence-based medicine practices to ensure accurate and efficient data collection and retrieval.

Geetha Sivasubramanian, MD

Thanks to support from the Roger K. Larson Distinguished Visiting Professorship Endowment, a multidisciplinary team of faculty physicians at UCSF Fresno, with support from the UCSF Fresno Clinical Research Center, have embarked on the establishment of the UCSF Fresno Valley Fever Research Registry. This team of experts includes Geetha Sivasubramanian, MD, FIDSA, interim division chief of Infectious Diseases and program director of the Infectious Diseases Fellowship; Mohamed Fayed, MD, pulmonary critical care specialist; Robert Libke, MD, director of Infection Control; and Eyad Almasri, MD, assistant dean for Research.

“While there are research and efforts underway to improve our management of patients with Valley fever, our combined expertise across specialties is needed to combat this problem unique to the Central Valley,” says Dr. Sivasubramanian.

This one-of-a-kind registry for Valley fever will use a secure, HIPPA-compliant software system to collect and maintain important data from patients with Valley fever in the region including demographics, clinical features, laboratory and imaging findings, treatment, and outcomes. Researchers will use the registry to access a wide variety of relevant clinical data that can be used for their respective Valley fever studies. This will make it easier to enroll patients in Valley fever clinical trials and also avoid lengthy delays in obtaining accurate data.

“At completion, the UCSF Fresno Valley Fever Registry will be one of the largest registries of Valley fever patients and will be available to all faculty at UCSF Fresno for research purposes,” said Dr. Sivasubramanian.  

Your generous support of the UCSF Fresno Clinical Research Center helps ensure our faculty have the resources they need for innovative projects like the Valley Fever Research Registry in an era of rising research costs and fluctuating federal funding. Your gifts enable researchers to approach long-standing, intractable problems like Valley fever from a new perspective while also allowing them to pivot in real-time to address new health concerns like COVID-19.

To learn more about how your gift to UCSF Fresno can inspire a healthier future for the Valley and beyond, please contact Kathleen Smith, assistant director of Development at (559) 499-6426 or [email protected]

Learn more about Dr. Sivasubramanian’s efforts to promote awareness of Valley fever in our community here and Dr. Fayed’s research to study the prevalence and outcomes of Valley fever here.

Part of Newsletter: Focus on UCSF Fresno Fall 2023