New valley fever test shortens diagnosis wait time

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

People with valley fever could soon start feeling better faster. A brand new way to test for the disease will be available to doctors next month. 

Valley fever is a fungal infection, caused when spores living in the soil are inhaled. More than 6,000 Arizonans were diagnosed with valley fever last year, according to the CDC.

[RELATED: Genetic tests on pets could lead to better treatments for valley fever]

Karen Gable will be included in the 2017 statistics. "The Monday before Thanksgiving I actually had a really bad pain in my back," she said. 

Gable's aches and pains were followed by a fever that just wouldn't break. 

"I didn't feel the heavy chest yet, I just knew I had a fever and I was really really tired," said Gable. "Very fatigued. And nauseous." 

She went to see a doctor and was diagnosed with pneumonia. But medicine didn't seem to help. 

So she went back for a valley fever test.

A few days later, her results came back positive.

[RELATED: University awarded US grant for work on valley fever vaccine]

Some patients take weeks to get a diagnosis, depending on the type of test they're given. 

"The most definitive old test was to try to grow the fungus on a petri dish. Literally that's technology that's 150 years old," said Dr. Paul Keim. 

Keim is the co-inventor of a brand new test just approved by the FDA, that uses a sample of congestion material from the lungs to accurately diagnose valley fever.

The new test was developed in Flagstaff by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Northern Arizona University, and licensed out to DxNA LLC for clinical studies. 

They say it will reduce the time it takes to diagnose from days to just 90 minutes.

"Valley fever is hard to diagnose and if you don't get diagnosed correctly, you don't get treated correctly," said Keim. 

The new test will be available the first of the year. 

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Lauren ReimerLauren Reimer joined the 3TV/CBS 5 family in June 2016. She is originally from Racine, WI but is no stranger to our heat.

Click to learn more about Lauren.

Lauren Reimer

She previously worked for KVOA in Tucson, covering topics that matter to Arizonans including the monsoon, wildfires and border issues. During the child migrant crisis of 2014, Reimer was one of only a handful of journalists given access to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Nogales, where hundreds of unaccompanied children were being held after crossing into the U.S. from Central America. Before that, Reimer worked at WREX in Rockford, IL. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and still visits home often. When not chasing news stories, Reimer loves to explore, enjoying everything from trying new adventurous foods to visiting state and national parks or local places of historical significance.

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