Discipline: Biological Sciences
Fazalath Sadiq Batcha - California State University Bakersfield
Co-Author(s): Antje Lauer, California State University Bakersfield; Manpreet Kaur, California State University Bakersfield, Bakersfield, CA
Coccidiodomycosis, commonly known as valley fever, is a fungal infection caused by soil dwelling and spore forming pathogens Coccidioides spp. which were established in the Americas. Coccidioides is a fungus and will inhabit the soil as long strings of mycelium composed of numerous hyphae. The pathogenicity of Coccidioides arises from its ability to form spores which can become airborne and can cause infection. Sporulation occurs when environmental conditions change, such as, nutrient depletion or high temperature which inhibit growth. The pathogenicity of these spores poses a risk to public health because the fungal pathogens have the ability to evade the host immune system and symptoms first appear as the common flu. This project deals with the identification of Coccidioides spp. in soil samples collected in the winter and spring/summer seasons at Joshua Tree National Park in California. We hypothesize that there will be more positive results in the winter season as compared to the summer season because fungal growth occurs in the wet seasons.
This hypothesis was tested using 10 soil samples collected below the top layer of soil in each season. DNA from these samples was extracted using the DNeasy PowerSoil Kit. Once the DNA was collected, a nested PCR that includes three diagnostic primers pairs was used to detect the presence of Coccidioides spp. in these soil samples. Agarose gel electrophoresis was used to visualize the PCR amplicons to confirm their correct length. DNA isolated from a Coccidioides isolate obtained from the sputum sample of an infected patient was used as a positive control.
Some locations were identified as being positive, but ongoing investigation will give a greater insight on the seasonal variation and presence of Coccidioides spp. at Joshua Tree National Park. The process of PCR identification is still taking place. Although final conclusions have not yet been made on this project, the presence of Coccidioides spp. and the variation of Coccidioides over the seasons is a significant factor for public health. Joshua Tree National Park is in close proximity to The Marine Corps Air Ground Center also known as Twentyninepalms, and poses a risk not only to the tourists visiting the park but also soldiers who live and train on the military base. Future research questions related to this project include the comparison of the presence and quantity of Coccidioides spp. in the all the seasons of the year, as well as the identification of the fungal diversity associated with each season.
Richard F. Hector, Rafael Laniado-Labroin. 2005. Coccidiodomycosis- A Fungal Disease of the Americas. 2(1) : 0015-0018.
Vargas-Gastelum, Lluvia et. al. 2015. Impact of seasonal changes on fungal diversity of a semi-arid ecosystem revealed by 454 pyrosequencing. 91:1-13.Not Submitted
Funder Acknowledgement(s): CSU Bakersfield Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program. U.S. Department of Justice. Grant number: SERDP 16-RCO1-50.
Faculty Advisor: Antje Lauer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Role: As a part of this project, I have worked on multiple aspects of conducting research. I completed the DNA extraction process. Extracting the DNA out of the soil samples, and purifying it to start the PCR's. I also completed the nested PCR's along with the diagnostic PCR's to identify the presence of Coccidioides spp. in the soil samples through agarose gel electrophoresis.