The lack of knowledge regarding the ecology of Coccidioides spp. makes both modeling the potential for disease outbreaks and predicting the distribution of the organism in the environment challenging. No single ecological parameter explains the biogeography of the pathogen. Previous investigations suggest an association with desert mammals, but these results should be confirmed with modern molecular techniques. Therefore, we used molecular tools to analyze soils associated with animal activity (i.e., burrows) to better define the ecology and biogeography of Coccidioides spp. in Arizona. Soils were collected from locations predicted to have favorable habitat outside of the established endemic regions to better understand the ecological niche of the organism in this state. Our central hypothesis is that soils taken from within animal burrows will have a higher abundance of Coccidioides spp. when compared to soils not directly associated with animal burrows. Our results show that there is a positive relationship with Coccidioides spp. and animal burrows. The organism was detected in two locations in northern Arizona at sites not known previously to harbor the fungus. Moreover, this fungus is able to grow on keratinized tissues (i.e., horse hair). These results provide additional evidence that there is a relationship between Coccidioides spp. and desert animals, which sheds new light on Coccidioides’ ecological niche. These results also provide evidence that the geographic range of the organism may be larger than previously thought, and the concept of endemicity should be reevaluated for Coccidioides.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- veterinary (miscalleneous)