|Description:||This photomicrograph of a sample of pus from a Guinea pig, Cavia porcellus, revealed the presence of numbers of Coccidioides sp. fungal sporangia. Sporangia are mature spherules, which contain endospores, or sporangiospores, the reproductive cells of this organism.|
Coccidioides is a genus of fungi found in the soil of dry, low rainfall areas. It is endemic (native and common) in many areas of the southwestern United States, Mexico, Central and South America. Coccidioidomycosis, also known as Valley Fever, is a common cause of pneumonia in endemic areas. At least 30% – 60% of people who live in an endemic region are exposed to the fungus at some point during their lives. In most people the infection will go away on its own, but for people who develop severe infections or chronic pneumonia, medical treatment is necessary. Certain groups of people are at higher risk of developing severe disease. It is difficult to avoid exposure to Coccidioides, but people who are at higher risk should try to avoid breathing in large amounts of dust if they are in endemic areas.