California doctors speed up Valley fever diagnosis
(AP) -- California doctors have found a way to diagnose the fungal
disease Valley fever through DNA testing, allowing treatment of patients
to begin almost immediately, officials said Monday.
Regional Medical Center in Fresno is performing the DNA test that can
identify the disease in as few as five hours, rather than waiting more
than two weeks for the results of blood tests, officials said.
still no cure for Valley fever, which can be deadly, but doctors said
with early detection they can keep symptoms in check.
that helps diagnose it quicker is always a plus," said Dr. Dominic T.
Dizon, an assistant professor at the University of California, San
Francisco, who is based in Fresno.
fever is prevalent in the Central Valley and Arizona. Symptoms include
fever, chest pain, coughing and other symptoms. In California, over
4,000 cases were reported in 2012 with more than two-thirds found in
Merced and Kern counties.
Doctors still use
the blood tests to confirm the results of the new approach, but the DNA
testing is proving to be accurate, the Fresno Bee has reported.
The testing takes advantage of technology the hospital obtained last year to detect infectious bacteria.
and Marilyn Mitchell, who supervises the hospital lab, decided to try
using the machine to diagnose Valley fever. In the past six months, 255
samples were tested with success, Dizon said.
method won't be sold to other labs and doesn't require approval from
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Dizon, noting that he didn't
launch the research with the intent to market it.
The research will soon be published and any lab can purchase the machine to help treat patients, he said.
years ago, the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., began using a similar
test to diagnose patients with a different strain of Valley fever.
Doctors still use back-up testing to confirm immediate findings.
in Fresno said they also will compare the DNA results with blood tests,
but they are pleased they can quickly begin prescribing appropriate
drugs for patients.
"Everybody benefits from this technology," he said. "We wanted to elevate health care for the whole valley."