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Dog Drool Wanted: TGen Needs Help With Valley Fever Study

dog with tongue out
(Photo courtesy of Samantha Rivera)
Pet owners with healthy or sick dogs can contribute to the study by completeing a survery on TGen's website.

Scientists at a research institute in Flagstaff want dog owners to help with a new study about valley fever.

Researchers at Translational Genomics Research Institute(TGen) plan to use samples of dog saliva to help develop better treatments for valley fever in both dogs and humans. The disease is caused by a fungus found mostly in the soils of southern Arizona and California’s Central Valley.

Geneticist Bridget Barker is leading the study.

“Some people do not get sick at all from valley fever; they won’t even know they’ve been infected,” Barker said. “In 1 to 5 percent of the cases — we don’t really know the exact numbers — people can have very severe, potentially life threatening disease, and we don’t understand why that is.”  

The study will help determine why both dogs and people respond so differently to infection. Barker will use information submitted by dog owners to see if some breeds are more likely to get the disease than others.

Participants will send a sample of their dog’s saliva for DNA analysis. Researchers will look for differences in the genes of dogs that are sick compared to dogs that have been exposed but aren’t sick.

Pet owners with healthy or sick dogs can contribute to the study by completing a survery on TGen's website.

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Melissa grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Arizona and an M.FA. in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University.