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Phoenix company creates Valley fever test, cuts down on diagnosis time

(Flickr/William Brawley)

PHOENIX — Valley fever, also known as “Arizona’s disease,” is a highly-infectious fungus that enters the body through the lungs and hides, insidiously doing its damage.

But a Phoenix-based research institute has developed a test that can diagnose Valley Fever in just 90 minutes, down from the traditional laboratory testing time of 21 days.

The Translational Genomics Research Institute, also known as TGen, is a Phoenix-based non-profit that is “focused on developing earlier diagnostics and smarter treatments.”

The company has paired with the Utah-based testing diagnostic company called DxNA to develop a testing device using TGen’s GeneSTAT system. The diagnosis can be made from a single mouth-swab sample.

“There hasn’t really been great options for doctors — they don’t really test for this disease in a lot of cases,” said TGen’s Dr. David Engelthaler.

“Now, what this gives them is an option to get a pretty rapid — about an hour-and-a- half — test result in which they can determine how to treat their patient appropriately.”

The instrument is so revolutionary that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recognized it as the only cleared molecular test for Valley fever.

“The instrument will get the DNA out of [the sample] and then test the DNA to look for very specific pieces of information that tells you whether or not the Valley Fever fungus is present in that sample,” Engelthaler said.

Dr. Paul Keim, a biology professor at Northern Arizona University called the test a “milestone in our efforts to battle this devastating disease and to improve the health of our citizens.”

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