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Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology

Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology





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Departmental Mission

Our Mission is to develop new approaches for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases and immunologic disorders. Department programs are integral to the School's new Initiative on Infectious Diseases. Researchers use state-of-the-art technologies of genomics, proteomics and imaging to study the genes and proteins of the pathogens and their hosts to identify novel targets for prevention and therapy.

Diseases on the move because of climate change

Dr. ThompsonDr. George Thompson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, was interviewed as part of a USA today article highlighting how climate change is affecting the movement of infectious diseases across the United States. Dr. Thompson is a specialist on Valley Fever, which has seen a ten-fold increase in infections since 1998.

Read more about climate change spreading diseases to new areas.


Surviving Valley Fever

Severe case of highlights importance of awareness, expert care

For seven months beginning in the fall of 2010, Virginia Cappel’s medical condition was touch-and-go.

The series of events that would change her life began simply, with flu-like symptoms, which Virginia and her husband Niels initially thought was bronchitis. But about a month later, when they left their home in Davis, Calif., for a vacation in the Midwest, Niels began to notice more ominous signs: disruptions in Virginia’s speech, a slower gait and confusion, such as associating the wrong words with activities.

Virginia and Niels Cappel on one of their daily walks with Woody.
Virginia and Niels Cappel on one of their daily walks with Woody.

An immediate trip to the emergency room ruled out a stroke, and during the next few weeks, the diagnosis would continue to shift. There was concern that she had bacterial meningitis, followed by viral meningitis. Finally, a neurologist diagnosed valley fever, a fungal infection that affects about 150,000 people in the U.S. each year and has been on the rise in California. According to the California Department of Public Health, the number of reported cases in California has increased six-fold, from about 816 cases in 2000 to more than 5,366 cases in 2011.

“The disease can be difficult to manage,” said George Thompson, an assistant professor of infectious diseases who specializes in the care of patients with invasive fungal infections and helps direct the Coccidioidomycosis Serology Laboratory at UC Davis. “Sometimes there’s a delay in diagnosis because the symptoms resemble common illnesses such as flu and bacterial pneumonia. And despite the frequency of valley fever for those living in endemic regions, few clinicians think of this disease early in the course of a patient’s illness.”  Read more about Valley Fever.